Your University of Kentucky Wildcats fought off a decent Georgia Tech team in Rupp Arena on Saturday. The Cats fell down early to Josh Pastner’s Yellow Jackets, but regained the lead by halftime and never looked back. In the end the final scoreboard read 67-53, one point shy of covering that 14.5-point spread for you UK backers.
Here’s why Kentucky beat Georgia Tech:
Ashton Hagans is a really good point guard.
Two weeks ago, John Calipari challenged everyone to find a point guard better than Ashton Hagans. “I need to know who is better than him,” Calipari said after Hagans shined in Kentucky’s win over UAB. “Like, I don’t see it. I mean, I — oh, this kid and that kid and that kid. Well, let me tell you, you win games with guys like him. You do.”
In that game, Hagans set a new career-high in assists with 12, followed by an 11-assist game against Fairleigh Dickinson. Against Georgia Tech, Hagans sniffed at a triple-double with 21 points (8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), seven assists and seven rebounds. Throw in two steals with a not-so-good six turnovers, which we’ll forgive this time.
Keion Brooks is finding his way.
We are beginning to see the launch of Keion Brooks. He reached double-figure scoring for a second straight game, this time with 10 points in 26 minutes played. It’s not just about his increase in scoring, though; Brooks is finally showing the fight Calipari has been demanding of his players. “I’m proud of him,” Calipari said afterward.
Kentucky shut down Georgia Tech’s leading scorer.
Georgia Tech’s Michael Devoe entered the game with an ACC-leading average 21.4 points per game, as well as the nation’s sixth best three-point shooting percentage (.586). But in Lexington, Devoe contributed very little to his team’s side of the scoreboard as Kentucky’s defense held him to a season-low five points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field. America’s sixth-best outside shooter missed all five of his three-point tries.
Bubba Parham was human.
Parham did not match his performance of a year ago when he hit 10 three-pointers in Rupp Arena while playing for VMI. We did get a slight scare when Parham knocked down his first two long balls, but those would be the only two that would fall as he scored only 10 points, not 35 this time.
The defense created eights steals and 17 turnovers.
In addition to shutting down Devoe and Parham, UK’s defense forced 17 turnovers, including eight steals. The Cats scored 16 points off those turnovers.
Kentucky handled Georgia Tech’s zone.
Pastner and his team’s 1-3-1 zone set out to force Kentucky to rely on outside shots, where the Cats have had some struggles so far this season. It didn’t work. UK hit 4 of 12 from deep, good enough to mess that plan all up. Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley each hit two.
The Cats owned the glass.
The rebounding war went to the home team as Kentucky out-rebounded Georgia Tech, 34-25. With that, Kentucky also had more second chance points, 11-5.
Fun fact: It was a couple of guards — Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey — who led Kentucky in rebounding with seven apiece.
Free throw shooting is still very good.
We’re looking at a special group when they go to the foul line. Kentucky entered the game shooting 79.5 percent from the stripe as a team, the ninth-best mark in college basketball. That number will only go up after the Cats shot 83.3 percent at the line on 18 tries against the Yellow Jackets.
Also of note:
EJ Montgomery and Tyrese Maxey combined to shoot 0-for-13 from the field. Maxey missed all nine shot attempts, but got six at the foul line. Montgomery went 0-for-4 in a big zero-point performance after two career-high games. Not good.