Going into the Louisville game, Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey was just two for his last 20 from behind the 3-point line.
And then on Saturday, the freshman out of Garland, TX torched the nets in Kentucky’s rivalry matchup against the Cards, finishing with a career-high 27 points on 9-14 shooting and 4-5 from three.
Despite the cold shooting slump going into the game, Maxey knew a game like this was on the horizon.
“I think last time I had media, I told you all I wasn’t going to quit shooting. And that’s why,” Maxey said. “I believe in myself. I put the work in, I put the time in, and I knew it was going to fall [eventually]. And it fell tonight, so I’m happy.”
Maxey, who is now averaging 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per contest, credited his father for helping him find his shooting stroke again.
Maxey’s father, Tyrone, attended his first game at Rupp Arena on Saturday, with the freshman guard telling reporters they spent Friday evening working on his shot in the gym together.
“Just staying in there,” Maxey said of the shooting advice his father gave him. “I’ve been shooting it and releasing it, not holding my follow through. My dad was here for the first time, it was his first time coming to a game [at Rupp Arena]. We worked out last night, he was telling me to stay in there and lock in, hold my follow through. Just be confident.”
While his 3-point shooting stroke was back, Maxey also came up with several crucial baskets late in the game, most notably a difficult layup at the rim to give Kentucky a 61-59 lead with just 29 seconds to go.
“All I remember was that there was a big dude in the paint,” the 6-foot-4 guard said of the late sequence in regulation. “I was really trying to get the foul. I always tell our strength coach that I’m like a Great Dane because I’m strong, so that was a Great Dane moment.”
Louisville found a way to tie up the game and send it to overtime, but like John Calipari has been begging for over the last several weeks, the Wildcats fought down the stretch and pulled out the 78-70 victory.
“We needed it,” Maxey said. “Like I said, we’re resilient, Coach Cal always tells us we’re right there, and I feel like we are. I’m proud of these dudes, everybody fought hard, Keion [Brooks Jr.] was in there starting, Immanuel Quickley came off the bench, made shots, defended, played really good defense on [Jordan] Nwora. We really needed that.”
The last time Kentucky fought to close out a high-profile matchup and came out on top? The team’s season-opening victory against Michigan State in Madison Square Garden.
Maxey, who finished with 25 points in the season-opener, said he didn’t want to compare the two victories but simply celebrate this one and focus on Missouri next week.
“I wasn’t really thinking about that, I was just trying to get the [win],” Maxey said. “Had to make plays down the stretch, big rebounds, big stops. I had to chase No. 30 [Ryan McMahon] around, he’s a really good player. I feel like I did a pretty good job on him today. I’m proud of my teammates.”
Joining Maxey’s father in attendance was the Kentucky guard’s mother, Denyse, his sisters, and his uncle. And after his dominant shooting performance, he’s excited to see each and every one of them.
“I’m very excited, this was my dad’s first game, so I’m very excited,” Maxey said. “It was an amazing feeling seeing him over there [in the stands], my mom was here, my sisters are here, my uncle. It was just amazing, I’m so excited to go spend some time with them.”