Kentucky shook off a slow start to handle its business against Missouri in the kickoff to Southeastern Conference play. Nick Richards was the story of the afternoon with his sixth double-double of the season (and it was a good one), but the storyline took a turn for the worse as Ashton Hagans suffered an injury in the final two minutes of the game. Fan excitement around Richards and the win quickly turned to concern for the Cats’ star point guard.
My colleagues are chasing the update on Hagans’ status and more from the postgame scene in Rupp Arena; in the meantime, read this brief recap of the victory. (Warning: I’m under the weather, watched the game in bed on meds, and my brain is mush. Bear with me.)
It was ugly in the beginning.
It took over six minutes of game action for Kentucky to score its second basket of the game as Mizzou jumped out to an early lead out of the visiting locker room. The game was moving at a snail’s pace until Nick Richards decided to audition for the NBA Draft by scoring 14 of his team’s first 16 to ignite a little fire under the Cats. It was all Kentucky from there as the Tigers’ 11 minutes of controlling the scoreboard disappeared and the good guys rolled to a 12-point win and a cover.
Nick Richards was outstanding.
After a career performance against Louisville last Saturday, Richards responded with an even better performance against Mizzou. Your new favorite player finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, but it was how he scored those 21 points that has his audience wondering what in the world has gotten into the junior big man. I mean, did you see that Euro step????
Richards was also a menace on the defensive end. We saw him coaching his teammates into position, challenging shots, switching on picks, hustling, FIGHTING and doing just about everything we wanted to see out of him a year ago. It seems he has finally come into his own and learned where to be, what to do and what it takes to dominate.
Richards is finding his potential and it’s a real beauty to witness.
Can we get a round of applause for UK’s foul shooting?
This team is one of Calipari’s best teams at the stripe and Saturday was the team’s best game in that regard. Kentucky shot 90 percent by hitting 27 of 30 free throw tries, an absolute unbelievable showing highlighted by Immanuel Quickley’s perfect 9-for-9. Quickley has now hit 46 of 48 on the year. That’ll do.
Quickley set a new career high in scoring.
It wasn’t just the free ones that were falling for Quickley. He also hit four three-pointers to set a new career high in scoring with 23 points.
However, Quickley’s hot hand took a hit late in the game and he was taken for X-rays.
Calipari said a bad word in his postgame TV interview.
I bet he said a few bad words when Kahlil Whitney got blocked on an insane dunk attempt too.
Ashton Hagans struggled to score, but did everything else.
Hagans missed all three of his field goal attempts, but found other ways to impact the game by dishing out seven assists and grabbing five defensive rebounds from the guard spot. Of course, no one cares about Hagans’ numbers from the game; all you want to know is how long he’ll be out.
Tyrese Maxey was ice cold, EJ Montgomery is still behind and will we ever see Khalil Whitney do something this season?
Maxey missed all five of his shots from outside and scored only eight points elsewhere. He had 27 against Louisville. He gets a pass today.
Montgomery and Whitney though… it’s past time to get going. Montgomery has to give more than three points and four rebounds. Nate Sestina is going to take up more of his minutes if Montgomery doesn’t wake up.
As for Whitney, he went 0-for-2 from the field with zero points, zero assists, zero rebounds, zero steals, zero blocks, zero fouls and one major failed dunk attempt. He’s too athletic to contribute nothing. Find something you can offer.
One win down in SEC play.
We’ve reached the point in the season when every win is a big win. Every game will be a fight and UK’s SEC slate is off to a 1-0 start with today’s victory.
On Tuesday they travel to Georgia to make it 2-0.