When Kentucky found itself in a tough spot vs. Vanderbilt, Immanuel Quickley once again saved the day. Like he did vs. Louisville and Texas Tech, the sophomore guard hit some massive shots in the second half to turn the tide and help lead Kentucky to the 78-64 win.
With 13:29 left, Quickley hit a three to cut Vandy’s lead to two. Coming out of a timeout with 3:47 left, he stepped back and hit another three to push Kentucky’s lead to eight. On the Cats’ next possession, he drove the baseline but was thrown to the ground. Instead of pouting, he got back up, ran to the corner, caught a pass from Ashton Hagans, and buried another three to extend the lead to eleven.
“I ain’t gonna lie to you, every time I pass it to him, I just turn around and go down the court and smart smiling because I already know he hit it,” Ashton Hagans said after the game. “That’s Immanuel. He’s been in the gym a lot. He’s been locked in this year and is trying to prove something.”
“If Quick is shooting it, I’m worried about getting back on defense,” Tyrese Maxey said. “I’m ready to play defense because I know it’s going in.”
Quickley finished with 18 points, including three threes and a perfect 7-7 mark from the free-throw line; five rebounds; three assists; two turnovers; and a steal in 37 minutes. He led the team in efficiency at +17. How valuable is he to this squad? John Calipari admitted afterwards that one of the reasons Kentucky got off to such a poor start was because he mixed up his guards, running plays to Tyrese Maxey instead of Quickley.
“We started the game and I thought I was running stuff to Immanuel but I ran the wrong side of the floor, so it ended up being to Tyrese, and we started, 8-0, 5-0. We were supposed to be going to the other side of the floor and then to Immanuel. That’s who I like to start a game with because I have a lot of confidence in him and he’s tougher. He’s just physically tougher. And he hits free throws.”
After tonight’s game, Quickley is averaging 92.5% from the free-throw line, which ranks second in the country. While Ashton Hagans and Nick Richards may be Kentucky’s most important players, there’s no one I’d rather have on the court more in crunch time than Quickley. I think these fans agree:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 12, 2020