Ahead of the No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats Saturday afternoon matchup against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, junior forward Nick Richards answered questions from the media.
Richards spoke on Georgia Tech’s tendencies, the upcoming scheduled littered with quality opponents, and how the return of a healthy EJ Montgomery has helped the team.
Kentucky hasn’t played an actual game since an 83-52 trouncing of Farleigh Dickinson last Saturday. Over the next two weeks, the schedule heats up for the ‘Cats, with tomorrow’s game against Georgia Tech quickly followed by Utah (7-2) then No. 3 Ohio State and finishing in Lexington against the No. 1 ranked Louisville Cardinals.
With a challenging slate of games looming, Richards is just looking forward to getting back onto the court.
“I like playing more than practicing,” Richards said about the one week break in between games.
He might be antsy, but Richards understands that the upcoming four-game stretch could be a definitive period in the team’s development for the remainder of the season.
“We’re really focused on these next three games,” Richards said. “Even these next four games, including Louisville, it’s going to be a real test for us. A chance for us to show the world how good we can be.”
In less than 24 hours, he’ll finally be able to step back onto the court against a 4-3 Yellow Jackets team.
Georgia Tech is powered by sophomore guard Michael Devoe, who currently leads the ACC in scoring (21.4 ppg) and three-point percentage (52.9). Tech will enter Rupp Arena coming off a disappointing 97-63 loss to Syracuse. and they’ve also already lost to two other SEC teams, Arkansas and Georgia. However, they have beaten the likes of NC State and Nebraska.
“They try to post up their bigs a lot,” Richards said about Georgia Tech. “They run a lot of screens. They are a very fast-paced team. They sprint the court on offense then try to get back on defense a lot. It’s going to be a real challenge for us.”
Aside from the Kentucky bench, there will be a familiar face returning to Rupp looking to inflict the same kind of pain he mercilessly gifted the Big Blue Nation last season.
After transferring from VMI, Bubba Parham – who infamously dropped 35 points against UK last November – will be back in the building for Georgia Tech. Through seven games, Parham is averaging seven points and over 31 minutes per game.
“We’re just going to figure it out in the game. We know his [Parham’s] game, we know what he’s trying to do” Richards said. “As a team, we’re just going to try and collectively guard their entire team, not just one individual player.”
With a healthy EJ Montgomery back in the lineup (who is coming off two outstanding performances where he posted 16 points and eight rebounds followed by a 25-point, nine-rebound outing), Richards has a steady running mate next to him. Now is the time for the two of them to increase their on-court chemistry together.
“We [Richards and Montgomery] look to play off one another,” Richards said. “When he’s in the post I try to figure out my way how to get open when he’s driving. When I’m in the post I’m trying to find him on lobs or when he’s close to the rim.”
A tune-up game against Georgia Tech should aide in learning how to play off of each other, but they’ll need to do it quickly with two top-5 opponents right around the corner.
Kentucky and Georgia Tech will tipoff at 5 p.m. inside Rupp Arena and can be streamed on ESPN.