For the third time this weekend, your University of Kentucky Wildcats are victorious. Tonight, John Calipari’s squad (mostly) cruised to a 81-56 win over Lamar to move to 5-1 on the season. Let’s run through the highlights before closing the book on a busy three days.
Welcome back, Tyrese Maxey
Maxey turned in his best performance since the season opener vs. Michigan State, sparking a 20-0 run to put Kentucky ahead comfortably at halftime. The freshman had a game-high 21 points off 8-11 from the floor, 4-6 from three, along with five rebounds and three assists. Per usual, when Maxey shot the ball, it in no way looked like it was going in and at times, he seemed super reckless (what was that behind-the-back pass under the basket?!) but the talent is there and games like these are huge confidence boosters.
After the game, Calipari said that even though Maxey is still going through growing pains, he has the green light to fire away.
“He knows, if it’s in transition, he can take it,” Cal said. “Like, if we throw it ahead and he’s open in transition, don’t drive it, just shoot that ball.”
Another double-double for Nick Richards
Is Nick Richards Kentucky’s most consistent player this season? It certainly feels like it. Nick had 10 points and 13 rebounds in 35 minutes tonight, his third double-double of the season. May I remind you that he only had one double-double in his first two years in Lexington? Nick’s progression has been extremely satisfying to witness, and dunks like these show you how his confidence has bloomed.
It’s not just points and boards. Nick has been an effective rim protector this season, blocking SEVEN shots tonight.
“I thought Nick did some good stuff,” Calipari said. “I liked the fact that we blocked shots today. And I told the guys, how are we not blocking shots? We should be one of those teams in our league.”
Kentucky’s frontcourt remains a question mark, but Nick’s play thus far certainly bodes well.
Ashton Hagans almost had a double-double
Hagans was Kentucky’s second-leading scorer tonight with 15 points and NINE assists. Ashton’s struggled at times this season due to a leg injury, but has 16 assists in the past two games, 22 assists over the past three. That’s pretty good. An Ashton Hagans three isn’t my favorite shot for this squad, but it’s hard to argue after he was three of four from behind the arc tonight.
As a whole, Kentucky’s guard play was strong vs. Lamar. The trio of Maxey, Hagans, and Quickley combined for 47 of Kentucky’s 81 points and 15 of the Cats’ 19 assists.
Kentucky hit threes!
After hitting only 9-44 threes (20.5%) in the first three games, the Cats have shot 16-37 (43.2%) from the outside in the last two. Kentucky had 10 threes tonight — four from Tyrese Maxey, three from Ashton Hagans — which helped open up the offense. The jury’s still out on whether or not this is Calipari’s best shooting team, but it was nice to see some flashes of potential.
I liked what I saw from Keion Brooks
Kahlil Whitney got the start tonight, but Brooks outplayed him on the wing, putting up nine points and grabbing three rebounds in 15 minutes. I’m not sure where the narrative that Brooks isn’t athletic came from, but he’s debunked it a few times so far this year, including that big dunk you see pictured above.
Kentucky won the rebounding battle
In a stat that will make Calipari happy, the Cats outrebounded Lamar 41-34; however, the Cardinals had four more offensive rebounds, 14-10. When asked about it afterwards, Calipari revisited a familiar refrain.
“We still got guys that aren’t bringing in balls. Like, tipping. You understand, I say two hands. So my man tipped it and tipped it in for them. You tip it from us. You grab the ball with two hands. Offensively, we had a couple down this end and we went to bring them in and they just squirt lose.”
EJ Montgomery and Immanuel Quickley looked good
In their second game back from injury, both EJ Montgomery and Immanuel Quickley looked solid, turning in seven and eleven points apiece. Nick Richards’ play stole the spotlight, but Montgomery played well, grabbing four rebounds and blocking three shots in 23 minutes, and showing off some serious midrange game with a long two. Meanwhile, Quickley was only 1-4 from three, but 4-5 from the free-throw line with three assists.
Why yes, that’s Darryl Isaacs in a Josh Allen jersey
Hopefully The Hammer isn’t too heartbroken about the Jags’ 42-20 loss to the Titans today. #TitanUp
ESPN made some gamblers nervous
If you were watching the game on television, you might think the final score was 80-56, but it was actually 81-56. Who cares, right? Well, people who put money on Kentucky to cover the 24.5-point spread, that’s who. Apparently ESPN missed a free throw, which made a lot of gamblers across the Bluegrass nervous. Breathe easy, degenerates.
A feel-good weekend
I could spend some more time nitpicking Kentucky’s win (where were Nate Sestina and Kahlil Whitney?), but after back-to-back 20+ point wins and a 50-7 rout in football, what’s the point? Given the mood in the Bluegrass a few weeks ago, I’m just happy to end the weekend on a high note. Right, Nick?
Great weekend ?
— Nick Richards (@iamnickrichards) November 25, 2019
Check out Dr. Mike’s photos from tonight on our Facebook page: