Sophomore Nick Richards finished with seven points, 15 rebounds and three blocks against Arkansas Tuesday night, but his impressive stat line isn’t indicitive of how hard it was for the forward to get things going at the start of the game. For the second game in a row, EJ Montgomery started in place of Reid Travis, but Richards came in less than five minutes later.
Richards finished the first half with seven rebounds and three points (1-1 from the floor and 1-2 from the free-throw line). These stats, surprisingly enough, placed him as the team’s third-highest scorer and the leading rebounder. But the first 20 minutes were a slog for the big man.
“First half, he wasn’t very good,” John Calipari said of Richards. “As a matter of fact, he wanted out. I said: ‘you’re not coming out.’ Figure it out and stay in the game. Second half he was good.”
How does Coach Cal expect Richards to figure it out?
It’s going to take him time to work through this, and he has to work through it – not anybody else. He’s got to figure it out,” Calipari said. “No mud wrestling. You’re not good at it: you get thrown to the floor, you look bad and you look awkward. When he moves his feet and uses his length and… just goes and gets balls, he’s pretty good.”
Even though Richards’ 15 rebounds were impressive – and his second-highest outing of the season, behind his 19 rebounds against Southern Illinois on Nov. 9 – Calipari thinks he should have had more.
“He had three one-handed rebounds,” Calipari said. “He’s drifted that way, which cost him three rebounds. He had 15 [but] he could have had 18.”
“I don’t know what he’s talking about – I got 15,” Richards laughed. “I’m joking. To have [more rebounds], I have to create, like Coach talks about. He talks about discipline and the things I still have to discipline myself on.”
Of course, those one-handed rebounds are a big part of what Richards still needs to work on in the coming weeks. One miscue came in a critical moment late in the second half against the Razorbacks, when a Richards’ grab could have basically ended the game for Kentucky. But it just slipped through his fingers. It was something he consistently struggled with as a freshman but has greatly improved upon this year. (Side note: did you catch Tom Hart’s Midterm Second Semester Nick Richards reference?).
— Heather Bartley (@KYgal_Heather) February 27, 2019
Thanks to Heather Bartley for catching that on video.
If he keeps playing like he did Tuesday night, especially regarding his rebounding efforts, Kentucky is in for a heck of a End of the Second Semester, March Madness Nick Richards.