When Kentucky needed someone to step up down the stretch, Keion Brooks delivered.
While the Wildcats combatted foul trouble, the true freshman forward from Fort Wayne, Indiana played his best game to date. He scored 10 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Most importantly, he never flinched when the game was still hanging in the balance.
“Those two free throws were big down the stretch,” said Tyrese Maxey. “He got big rebounds. He didn’t break down. Coach KP said, ‘He gone grow up today,’ and he did.”
Brooks’ two free throws were the final points UK scored in Fayetteville, icing any potential comeback by the Razorbacks. Sliding in for John Calipari, Kenny Payne used the opportunity to push Brooks to his limit.
“The whole time I’m telling Keion, you have to grow up today. I’m not taking you out. I need to know that you can get through this. I need to know that you’re taking a test; how are you going to do on this test? He passed,” Payne said.
“Super proud of him because he’s had a hard road, the pressure he’s been on to perform is a lot, the game is coming at him fast. He stood up and came through for us. A big game for him today.”
He wasn’t the only role player that provided big minutes for the Cats. In 17 minutes of action Johnny Juzang scored five points and knocked down a huge three-pointer, his first since Nov. 29.
“Big shots, he hit a pull-up and a big three. He played solid defensively. I think everybody is coming together,” recalled Maxey. “I have the ultimate faith in Johnny. As soon as he shot it, I was probably one of the first ones up on the bench yelling ‘YEAH!’ I’m proud of him.”