South Carolina came into tonight’s game with a 6-2 record in the SEC and for the first 15 minutes of the game, stayed with Kentucky; however, in what is becoming routine, the Cats pulled away to win by an impressive margin, 76-48, even on a night they weren’t firing on all cylinders.
Roll that beautiful recap footage!
It was EJ Montgomery’s night to shine
On Saturday vs. Florida, the lanky freshman earned kudos from John Calipari, Mike White, and his teammates without even scoring a point. Tonight, he notched his first career double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. His efficiency was 22, by far the highest of any player on the floor.
“E.J. was really good,” Calipari said afterwards. “Double-double, active, playing hard, blocking shots. He’s starting to come around. This was a great game for him to prove it against a really physical team, that they’re going to get body-to-body on you. He was able to still get it done.”
EJ made an impact from the start, grabbing six rebounds in an eight-minute span in the first half. As the game got out of hand in the second half, he was able to work on his offense. When he hit a three to make the double-double official with 16 seconds left, the bench and fans left in Rupp Arena cried out for joy.
“EJ, I am so happy for him,” Cal added. “Every day in practice going against Nick, Reid, and PJ has done this for EJ.”
While EJ was doing his player of the game interview with Mike Pratt, his teammates surprised him with a Gatorade bath:
After his first career double-double, EJ Montgomery received a Gatorade bath from his teammates on Wildcat Wrap-Up. pic.twitter.com/DFTH3mrXDJ
— UK Sports Network (@UKSportsNetwork) February 6, 2019
I’ve said it before, but seeing how happy these guys are for each other is one of my favorite things about this group. Let’s hope that joy continues to spur them on.
PJ Washington had another 20-point game
PJ Washington’s streak of double doubles will end at three, but the sophomore had yet another impressive performance tonight, finishing with a game-high 20 points, five rebounds, two steals, and an assist. On a day when his father had knee replacement surgery, PJ remained dialed in. (His dad’s doing well, by the way.)
“You look at PJ, he’s not the same player that he was at the beginning of the year or last year,” Calipari said afterwards. “He’s got more assists than turnovers…He’s a different player.”
Cal’s right; for the season, PJ has 39 assists to 36 turnovers, a much better ratio than last year’s 57 assists to 71 turnovers. He’s even shedding his reputation as Mr. 1-2 from the line, going 6-7 from the charity stripe tonight.
Shoutout to Reid Travis for handling Chris Silva
Foul trouble kept Chris Silva, South Carolina’s biggest weapon, on the bench for most of the game, but when he was in, Reid Travis shut him down. It was the EJ and PJ show tonight, but Calipari made it a point to give Reid plenty of credit in the postgame press conference, telling reporters that the fifth-year senior battled so hard against Silva he was hooked up to an IV in the locker room.
“Without Travis, Silva probably goes for 25 and 11. The kid’s in there exhausted. We’ve got him on an IV. Him and Silva just went at each other. He was able to withstand it, which tells you it’s good for us to have a guy. If they have a guy like that, we got one, too.”
Yet another impressive defensive performance
After not being able to guard a fence post earlier this season, it feels like this team’s defense is entering rarefied air. In four of the last five games, Kentucky held an opponent to 55 points or less. In seven of the last eight games, they’ve held an opponent to 40 percent or less from the field. After South Carolina hit 4-7 threes in the first half, the Cats clamped down in the second, allowing only 1-10.
You know what defense wins, right?
Yet another rout despite an off-night from one of the starters
For the second game in a row, Ashton Hagans struggled, finishing with only two points, four assists, and six turnovers. All six of those turnovers came in the first half. Calipari attributed a lot of Ashton’s issues tonight to South Carolina’s style of play, but the fact that Kentucky can beat a team by 28 on a night when he doesn’t play great is another promising sign, in my opinion. Same goes for Keldon Johnson, who was held to nine points off 2-9 from the floor.
What’s the missing piece?
The pieces are falling into place for Kentucky, but when asked what he’s looking for to push his team further up the mountain, Calipari didn’t hesitate.
“We need Nick. Nick has to give us 15 to 20 minutes a game. He’s got to be playing. It has nothing to do with jump hooks or shots. I like that because it makes him smile, but get in there and fight like crazy and rebound and block shots and fly up and down this court. Let us throw you lobs. There’s no one in the game of college basketball like him, but he’s got to go perform.”
Nick played well in spurts — especially alongside EJ, I thought — but he still made enough mistakes to draw the ire of Calipari, who did this ridiculous dance to show Nick how he needs to move in the post.
One of these days I’ll remember to turn the lamp off in the background of my videos/GIFs, I swear.
Sorry Bilas and Shulman, Hart and Kennedy are the new A-Team
Calling a 28-point blowout in a mostly silent Rupp Arena can’t be the easiest draw in the broadcasting business, but Tom Hart and Andy Kennedy made it a delight. Hart filled up the bingo card with KSR references, including recent ones like Virgie, Brock Steele, and Talmadge; made Ryan Lemond happy by going 47 feet with Jonny David; and even sang “Amarillo by Morning” going into one of the breaks. Yet, I’d argue Andy Kennedy was equally as entertaining, educating viewers on how much Estonians love potatoes and how peaceful Chileans are. Kennedy joked that the two got so off the rails that ESPN should burn the tape, but I’ll take them over Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas any night.
This sign is unfortunate
Look, Kentucky is rolling and we’re all really excited for next Saturday’s game vs. Tennessee, but can we at least spell it right on the sign?
Please say that guy’s a plant from Knoxville sent to make us look bad.
First things first: Mississippi State
Cal couldn’t help but get a little swaggy in the postgame presser, reminding reporters of how many — including yours truly — mocked how he told his team to pretend they won the Seton Hall game. Calipari reiterated that he wants to keep his guys in a good frame of mind, an even more challenging task now that they’re winning.
“I’ve got to keep these guys in the right frame of mind, which I told them today: My job now is hungry yet humble,” he said, doing his best Jon Rothstein impression. “We don’t need anybody arrogant right now. We need to be humble and we need to be hungry in what we’re trying to do.”