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Nick Richards’ “growing-up moment” helped seal the upset victory for Kentucky

In the six games before Kentucky’s victory over West Virginia, the advanced numbers have not been pretty for Kentucky freshman center Nick Richards.

According to @HoopsInsights, the team has been substantially better in this stretch of SEC games with the Kentucky big man off the court than on. It hasn’t been just his scoring struggles or foul trouble, it’s included offensive and defensive rebounding, opponent shooting percentage, and overall net rating.

With Richards In:

  • 23% offensive rebound rate
  • 65% defensive rebound rate’
  • Opponents shooting 59% on two pointers
  • UK has been outscored by 36 points in 182 possessions
  • -0.05 net rating per possession

With Richards Out:

  • 34% offensive rebound rate
  • 72% defensive rebound rate
  • Opponents shooting 45% on two pointers
  • UK has outscored opponents by 36 points in 238 possessions
  • +0.28 net rating per possession

He hasn’t passed the eye test in conference play, and the numbers (unfortunately) back that up.

To start the game against the Mountaineers on Saturday night, it was much of the same.

In fact, it only took seven minutes for me to tweet something ridiculous about Richards’ performance.

He had just one point, three rebounds, two fouls, and a turnover at halftime, but even that didn’t tell the whole story. Mountaineers were scoring on him in the paint left and right, and his offensive limitations only added to the large deficit.

When everyone begged Calipari to keep Richards on the bench to give Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones, and Jarred Vanderbilt more playing time and a realistic opportunity to make a comeback, he went right back to his freshman center.

And once again, Calipari was proven right.

Richards managed eight points and five rebounds in the second half, including a game-sealing putback with just 33 ticks left on the clock.


In addition to the tip-dunk, Richards drilled four consecutive free throws to tie the game up, converted on a tough floater in the lane, and sent a West Virginia shot into the stands after being this close on several other block attempts throughout the game.

The Kentucky big man heard his critics, myself included, and shut them up.

This afternoon, several of Richards’ Kentucky teammates talked about the impact he made during the upset victory, and how this was a breakthrough moment for a kid that has been through a rough slump this season.

“Nick came up real big for us (Saturday),” said Wenyen Gabriel. “He had a growing-up moment at the game and he started dunking the ball, getting rebounds. You just saw the fight. We always knew he had in him. He has the ability to do it. Just to see blossom in that type of environment was real big for us.”

“That’s why he’s in at the end of games, because he makes plays for us,” said Kevin Knox. “That big dunk at the end was really big for us. It got us kind of the final play to close the game. Just gotta keep playing hard and he’ll keep playing good.”

Head coach John Calipari told the media this afternoon that the team “mobbed” Richards after the game to congratulate him on his clutch performance.

“You ready for this? They mobbed Nick (Richards),” John Calipari said Monday. “And I said, ‘Nick, now you know. They all are happy for you. They all want you to do well.’”

Judging by his reaction, stepping up for his teammates in the big moment meant a lot to him, as well.


Sometimes it’s so easy to criticize a player in the heat of a moment, but when you see reactions like that, it immediately puts things in perspective.

Richards has always had the potential, now he just needs to maintain that level of confidence he found in the second half.

And I need to stop writing dumb tweets.


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

30 Comments for Nick Richards’ “growing-up moment” helped seal the upset victory for Kentucky

  1. bluecat15
    7:19 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

    Well done

  2. J-Dub421
    7:40 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

    Nick was huge in the second half.

  3. Matty Arbuckle
    7:44 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

    Except he could’ve gotten T’ed up for pulling up on the rim during that put back dunk, and he didn’t catch the two previous balls that were thrown to him wide open down low. Can we stop acting like he had some life altering game or even half of basketball?

    • Jambluehue99
      8:52 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

      Nope! I choose to celebrate! It’s called being a fan and appreciating someone’s progress. If you can’t see the impact he had in the game, too bad for you.

    • shelby
      8:58 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink


    • 4everUKblue
      10:28 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

      Can you stop being a [email protected]@ss Matty?

  4. Big Meech
    7:54 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

    I guess I don’t understand how a guy who writes for ksr is calling out one of our players on Twitter. U must be a real tough guy. I know nick has been struggling but I think differently I guess instead of blasting the guy, maybe word things a little different. Maybe I’m complaining too much but positive over negative is the way I think

    • Smyrna_Cat
      8:51 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

      Amen to this. No need to write “Nick is horrible” … once you win a Pulitzer, then you can criticize.

    • Jack Pilgrim
      9:21 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

      I called myself out for a reason, hence the whole “heat of the moment, need to put things in perspective, stop writing dumb tweets” thing.

    • 4everUKblue
      10:29 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

      Think before you hit send.

    • ClutchCargo
      8:41 am January 30, 2018 Permalink

      I disagree with tweeting stupid reactionary stuff like that. But I respect that he owned it instead of trying to make excuses for it. Jack is one of the most level headed writers on the site, so I don’t imagine it will happen again.

  5. holdem197727
    7:58 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

    I love the CATS and have my whole life. This season has been a struggle, I kept waiting for this type of game. Now that by ts happened it has me really pumped about this teams potential come tournament time!! BBN!!!!!!!!

  6. holdem197727
    8:28 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

    If Nick Richards can be consistent and Knox keeps playing this way I wouldn’t take any time over the cats!! BBN!!!!!!!!

  7. wyatts1
    8:30 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

    Can’t teach size, and he’s got it. He’s been slower developing then what most of us would like but it is what it is, different strokes for different folks. He is progressing and thats the biggest thing, however i gotta say with JV’s rebounding ability and overal grit on the floor, along with skj dependable play thus far this year nick better take advantage of the momentum he’s gotten from the WVU game cause the players that can replace him are also playing pretty well and may want to be more then just glue guys. Either way though, great win for this team and great boast in some much needed confidence for nick and this team. #GOBIGBLUE!!

    • FACTS
      8:55 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

      Honestly Nick is a player I haven’t even figured out yet. He can shoot well. He can rebound well when he wants to, but he needs to wipe the butter off his fingers and just hold on to the ball. He needs to finish the plays we would expect from him. When he gets a wide open dunk, you better make it. He can be a great player and he is slowly getting better. I just want to see how we carry our momentum.

  8. shelby
    8:57 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

    Nick and sacha can become a pretty awesome 2-headed monster at the 5 spot.

  9. Smyrna_Cat
    8:59 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

    Somehow I think you will continue writing dumb tweets. Please don’t.

    • ukkatzfan
      7:34 am January 30, 2018 Permalink

      Forgive him. He’ll be alright. He is just aiming to be the next Tipton.

  10. dballrb
    9:18 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

    Nick is a beast,and shows spots of how great he’s gonna be. .Get off the man’s case,unless you can play better than him,no damn reason to write these articles.Lets get off Nick’s back.Hes gonna break out in his way,and his time,and tend times are a changing!!

    • Jack Pilgrim
      9:39 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

      This article literally talks about how well he played and how he shut all of his critics up. Including myself.

    • AllBlueAllDay
      9:50 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

      It’s ok Nick. Some people understood what you meant by the article. Well written good sir. Takes a big person to blast himself when needed. Way to own up to it.

    • henderblue
      10:20 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

      You mean Jack^^^

    • AllBlueAllDay
      11:23 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

      Yeah definitely meant Jack. Not sure why I said Nick.

  11. Headhurts
    10:29 pm January 29, 2018 Permalink

    Fans need too decide if they want 1&done or 3-4 yr plyr, nick is 3-4 yr guy, they aren’t great from get-go, remember 3-4 yr guys develop.

    • Ez21
      5:40 am January 30, 2018 Permalink

      He hasn’t played as much basketball as most, he got a late start. Thus his development will likely be slower. However, he isn’t a 3-4 year guy. Maybe he should be bc of his lack of experience playing but he’s too talented to be here over 2.

    • kyle heavy
      11:00 am January 30, 2018 Permalink

      Headhurts, I think what most fans are frustrated with is the fact that he is a 3-4 year player but he will go pro after this year and be drafted based on that word I hate, “potential.” More guys will leave this year than should.

  12. kfwa
    6:04 am January 30, 2018 Permalink

    so the summary of this article is in 14 halves of basketball , he’s left more on the table than he took off in 1 of them.

    not sure I’m ready to declare this is the turning point

    sunshine pumpers get ready to tee off

  13. NcredibleH
    8:44 am January 30, 2018 Permalink

    Good grief people, John is owning up to his mistake. I’d like to see even 10% of you loud mouthed jabronies on twitter own up to all the moronic fair weather fan crap you put out there for everyone to see. You know who you are. Go cheer for another team please. Don’t need or want any fans like you.

  14. jahanc2uky
    9:05 am January 30, 2018 Permalink

    Look around college basketball this year… You notice all of the other teams have big centers? We need Nick in the tourney. IU was owned by the 7 footer from Purdue. Arizona, A&M, Kansas, Duke, Xavier, all have a big man that can go for 20/20. We need to be on that list of teams and Nick is the only “big butt guy” on this team that can get us there.

  15. Alleykat16
    9:31 am January 30, 2018 Permalink

    Yea you k,ow how it is we are all pros never miss a shot grab all the rebounds and block all the shots,when we playes so we talk crap about these 17 and 18 year old kids that’s never has played in these type of games you see we are all pros NOT give these kids a break let them learn let them grow