One of the few bright spots for Kentucky tonight was Nick Richards’ performance on the boards. The sophomore had 19 rebounds, which ties Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the most in a single game in the Calipari era. He also had eight points and three blocks.
“We need Nick on the court,” John Calipari said afterwards. “I knew after Duke, when they shot layup, layup, layup, you’ve got to have a shot blocker in there. We need him on the floor. I thought EJ played well too, by the way. The three blocks, and EJ got two, that’s five blocks. That’s five blocks. That changes — now you’re not going in there to shoot layups. I thought we collapsed on defense better.
“Nick gives us something we don’t have. Now, he should have had about ten more points. He faded away on shots. There’s still that stuff, fumbled a couple balls, one-handed caught a couple of balls, but if he’ll fight and go after balls and block shots, we can deal with the rest of it. He was good. I was happy for him. I was worried. The exhibition games and even the last game, you worry. You want every kid to play well.”
According to analytics, Richards was the best player on the court tonight, with a team-high efficiency of 22 and +/- of 14. As Calipari said, the Cats were simply better when he was on the floor.