For about 90 minutes, this felt like a typical mid-February game vs. a bad SEC team. Kentucky was up by 15 and Missouri was trying to stay alive by slowing the game down to an excruciating crawl.
That’s when it happened; Keldon Johnson went up for a defensive rebound and fell into Reid Travis on his way down, causing Reid’s right knee to bend inward. Reid immediately fell back in pain, clutching his knee, and when Kentucky called a timeout, limped off the court. From there, he went to the locker room. Ten minutes later, Kentucky announced that Reid had a sprained right knee and would not return. Afterwards, John Calipari didn’t have any specifics, simply saying Reid will get an MRI and hopefully be okay, and if he’s not, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards will have to step up in his place.
Kentucky went on to win the game 66-58, but no one will remember the final score. They’ll remember Reid’s injury, and if it’s severe, how poorly the Cats played after it. Naturally, part of it was the players adjusting to Reid being out, but they let Mizzou push them around under the basket and on the boards. The Tigers ended up winning the rebounding battle 34-28, 16-6 on the offensive boards. Twelve of Missouri’s offensive rebounds came after Reid exited the game, which would normally send Calipari on a lengthy postgame rant; instead, Cal shouldered part of the blame, admitting that once Reid got hurt, he just wanted to get out of the gym, which led to his team taking possessions down to the shot clock and playing more tentatively than usual. Should Reid be out for an extended amount of time, you have to think they’ll play better than that.
It feels like nothing really matters other than Reid’s knee right now, but let’s roll through some quick hitters about the rest of the game before shutting the book on an ugly night in Columbia.
PJ Washington and Tyler Herro played well
PJ Washington’s streak of 20-point games ended tonight, but he turned in another impressive performance, finishing with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block in 37 minutes. Fifteen of PJ’s 18 points came in the first half, and there was a stretch before halftime in which it felt like he couldn’t be stopped. PJ’s earned a lot of accolades this week, including Oscar Robertson Player of the Week, so it was good to see him follow it up with another solid night, despite some cramping issues at the very end (did I mention how ugly this game was?).
Tyler Herro also had 18 points, the most he’s scored since the Florida game in Gainesville on February 2. Herro always seems to play better on the road, and tonight, his most impressive work came at the line, where he was a perfect 8-8. In SEC play, Tyler has only missed one free throw, vs. Tennessee on Saturday, an incredible mark that deserves recognition.
Speaking of free throws…
…Kentucky going 19-22 (86 percent) from the charity stripe sure is a silver lining on a stormy night. According to Corey Price, that’s the Cats’ third best free-throw shooting performance in the Calipari era, and their best since the 2015 season. With Mizzou attempting to make it a game in the last five minutes, Kentucky went 10-10 from the free throw line, a promising sign as we get closer to March.
Second half Ashton > First half Ashton
Ashton Hagans did not play well in the first half, not scoring and turning the ball over three times to only one assist. In the second half, he was able to shoot his way out of a funk, scoring 12 points, including three of four threes. Whoulda thunk it? Tellingly, Calipari let Ashton play through his struggles over subbing in Immanuel Quickley, and it worked. Hopefully that confidence will carry over to Saturday, because Ashton will need it vs. Auburn’s guards.
Kentucky can’t leave Columbia tonight
There are few things John Calipari hates more than staying in an opposing team’s town the night after a game, but bad weather will keep the Cats in Columbia tonight. After grumbling about it, Cal said he hopes the team can fly back to Lexington tomorrow.
What is this team without Reid?
I really hope we don’t have to find out, but the question looms on the horizon like the winter storm that’s keeping the Cats in CoMo. The obvious answer is EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards have to step up. Richards had a promising first half, with seven points off 3-3 from the floor and four rebounds, and even started the second half, but quickly got taken out after a mistake. EJ played significantly more minutes in the second half and looked okay, but let Missouri’s bigs push him out of position.
PJ Washington’s play will also be affected. Part of his success in recent weeks is thanks to Reid, who has born the brunt of guarding guys like Grant Williams and clearing out space for PJ under the basket. How will PJ cope if Reid has to be out for a while? I keep coming back to something Kenny Payne said yesterday.
“It doesn’t always show up in the stats, what he means to this program, but I can only say this to you guys: I can’t imagine Reid Travis not on this team.”
Me neither. Be okay, Reid’s knee.