Kentucky, that was great.

No. 11 UK knocked back 13th-ranked Florida on Saturday with a 76-66 win. Rupp Arena looked fantastic, and the crowd was ever so thankful for No. 5. Yes, Malik Monk is the story here. After putting up just three points in the first 20 minutes, Monk had his strongest half of the season. The freshman dazzler poured in 30 second-half points (in a variety of ways) and in the process lifted Kentucky one game up in the SEC standings.

This could well give Kentucky the league title for the third straight season. The fact Kentucky got this win without De’Aaron Fox is notable. Fox has been the team’s MVP, but a knee bruise left him as a gametime decision. Ultimately, UK coach John Calipari and team doctors opted to keep Fox on the pine. That decision did not prove to be costly. 

Let’s examine what went down in the biggest game of the SEC’s season.

Four Takeaways 

1. Monk is again the man

He’s streaky, but no one’s better when they’re feeling it than Monk. His barrage in the second half not only lifted UK past a Florida team that was handling itself well inside hostile Rupp Arena, it also set a freshman Kentucky record under Calipari for the most points in a half. Monk’s hit the 30-point mark four times this season, which is another freshman Kentucky record in the Cal era. 

When Monk scores at least 25 points, Kentucky is 7-0 this season.

I’m not convinced Kentucky is a top-five candidate to make the Final Four, but if you tell me Monk will average more than 23 points from now through the rest of the season, then I’d rethink that position. 

2. For the 49th time (!), UK will finish atop the SEC standings

The Wildcats need one more win, and they’ll get it, to make that headline accurate. UK’s historical stranglehold on the SEC is more dominant than any other program in any other league in college basketball history. Consider: LSU is second in all-time regular-season championships in men’s basketball. The Tigers have 11. 

We take for granted just how dominant UK is in the conference on the hardwood. Every now and then, just step back and realize that -- for the past 60 years -- it’s essentially been a varsity program in a league full of JV outfits. 

Kentucky will now have 49, unofficially. (Lost one to NCAA sanctions, so it’s officially 48.)

The Gators and Wildcats -- who split the season series -- both entered this game with 13-2 conference marks. Kentucky’s final two games are home to Vanderbilt (15-13) and at Texas A&M (14-13). So yeah, UK’s going to, at the very worst, own a share of the league. 

Malik Monk was smooth, dynamic, everything UK needed him to be. USATSI

3. Monk was the story, but Bam Adebayo’s play was almost as vital

Monk had a huge day, but Bam Adebayo is going to giving him a run for this week’s Freshman of the Week. In his past two games, Adebayo’s averaging 20 and 15 with two blocks. He went for 18 and 15 against Florida, playing opportunistically and showing a lot of ability. The Bam we’ve seen over the past week is the player that was once projected to be a lottery pick. 

Because Monk was able to score at will in the second half, and because Florida couldn’t handle Adebayo, even guys like Derek Willis took advantage. Willis kept UK in striking distance in the first half with big shots, then here he is on the break. Willis is often overlooked, but I get the sense he’s going to have a huge game in March, be it in the SEC or NCAA tournament. 

Beyond that, Kentucky played reliably on defense. It wasn’t a shutdown performance (Florida only had six turnovers, and the Gators were too quick to shoot 3s; they had 30 attempts), but there was good progress here. All told, after a shifty first half, Kentucky executed fluidly in about a dozen ways in the final 20 minutes. 

4. Florida looked as good as you could expect in a 10-point loss

The venue, opponent and injuries must be taken into account. Canyon Barry is not fully healthy, and Florida lacks its best big man defender, John Egbunu. Despite this, UF held the lead most of the first half and still established itself in the backcourt. Kentucky’s defense did round out well in the second half, and that was the second biggest factor to Monk. (With Monk, sometimes there’s only so much you can do. He was simply feeling it.) 

The Gators’ hopes of a No. 2 seed extinguished with this loss, but don’t count out UF’s changes of winning the SEC Tournament. If that happened -- if Florida does not lose again until Selection Sunday -- the Gators would wind up with a better seed than Kentucky. Florida’s win at home over UK was more convincing than Kentucky’s win at home over UF. 

Mike White still has the Gators a year ahead of schedule, and this team has Sweet 16 capability, no question. KeVaughn Allen has averaged 20 points in his last four games. Keep that up, and the Gators won’t be picked off by any small schools in the first or second round of the NCAAs.