Skip to content

Kentucky Sports Radio

University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.

UK Rides Junior Nick Richards to First SEC Win

Similar to what we’ve done with the next day football recaps, we’re here to breakdown the game and tell you what happened in Kentucky’s most recent performance with some advanced stats on how each side did and what other happenings decided the outcome. Yesterday in Rupp Arena, Nick Richards put the team on his back.

Despite a very slow start, UK shook off some rust and offensive sluggishness to cruise to a double-digit victory and improve to 13-1 against Missouri all-time. It was an ugly basketball game, but the guys in the white jerseys played hard and pulled away with some timely made baskets and efficiency at the charity stripe.

Offense

Kentucky put up 71 points in 66 possessions while averaging a solid but not great 1.08 point per trip against a Mizzou defense that ranks 28th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. The player of the game was obviously Nick Richards who scored 21 points on 13 shots while collecting 12 rebounds with three of them occurring on the offensive end.

He got buckets in the post, splashed mid-range jumpers, scored off the offensive glass and dropped a euro step in the second half. Multiple plays from this game will be used on his scouting tape for NBA teams and we’ll see ESPN flash some highlights whenever his name is called in the draft. Outside of the Utah and Ohio State performances, his resurgence has been a real thing and he’s currently playing as well as any five-man in college basketball.

In the first 1o minutes of game action, UK was struggling to find any other offense outside of Nick Richards but that changed once Immanuel Quickley started to see the ball go through the net.

The sophomore guard scored 23 points on nine shot attempts with a career-high four three-point makes. This scoring outburst was a career best and it was good to see him back up a solid Louisville game with another very strong shooting performance. Quickley hit all nine of his free throws and has not missed one in over a month.

Elsewhere, Ashton Hagans continues to be a very solid floor general by dishing out seven assists. The sophomore point guard has recorded at least six dimes in 10 consecutive games and is becoming a real threat to UK’s single-season assist mark. Following the monster scoring effort versus Louisville, Tyrese Maxey scored eight points on 1o shots with all five of his three-point attempts coming up blank. The freshman is now shooting an ugly 27.6 percent from three on 58 shots. That’s not great.

The biggest issue the team had against Mizzou was taking care of the basketball. The Wildcats had eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes, but was able to clean up its act after that. However, 11 turnovers against a defense that ranks top-20 nationally in turnover percentage is not terribly awful.

Kentucky is still not getting offense from the trio of Keion Brooks, EJ Montgomery and Kahlil Whitney. Nate Sestina struggled to find the flow against a big and powerful Missouri front line. Despite that, UK shot 50 percent from two-point range and was able shoot 30 foul shots. That was the reason they were able to get the win quite comfortably.

Defense

Kentucky allowed 59 points on 66 possessions with the Tigers putting up an ugly 0.89 points per trip. That’s exactly what you expected going against one of the worst offenses in the SEC. We knew it was going to be a long day for Cuonzo Martin’s squad if the deep ball was not falling. Kentucky was able to limit them to six three-point makes and that was going to make it extremely hard for the program to pick up their first ever victory in Rupp Arena.

The Tigers shot just 37.5 percent from two-point range and had issues creating easy offense for the entire game. Top scorer Dru Smith needed 12 shots to get to 11 points while sharpshooter Mark Smith finished the game without a three-point make. Kentucky was able to keep a limited offensive team very limited while also doing a very good job of guarding without fouling.

In the paint, Jeremiah Tilmon can be difficult to deal with because of his size and efficiency (6-foot-10, 260 pounds, 63.1 percent shooter). However, he was recovering from an injury and simply cannot play organized basketball without fouling. He was only on the floor for eight minutes and that played into UK’s hands because he had some success drawing fouls and forcing Nick Richards to the bench.

Kentucky’s eight blocked shots made it extremely difficult for the Tigers to get anything going in the paint.

Deciding Factor

For much of the game, this was an ugly display of college basketball with each team struggling to score against some good defense. Add in a somewhat inconsistent whistles thanks to some rough play in the paint with the bigs. Therefore, you felt that whoever could put the big run together was going to have a great chance at winning. It was Kentucky who was able to pull that off.

Halfway through the first half, Kentucky trailed by six and was looking for any offense from someone not named Nick Richards. In the next 20 minutes of game action, the Wildcats outscored the Tigers by a count of 37-19 as they turned a deficit into a very comfortable lead.

Burstablity has been an issue for this team against some inferior opponents, but they were able to find that spark against Missouri.

Outlook

This was always going to be a very tough and unique spot for Kentucky. The first SEC game contest is always a challenge and the Wildcats were fresh off their first game in a week since that very emotional win over Louisville. The hangover effect was going to be very real and it was very reasonable to expect a slow start. Add in that a Missouri team was entering Lexington with four straight wins and there were some causes for concern.

Despite all that, Kentucky survived the early funk and rode excellent performances from three upperclassmen to victory. As expected, there are going to be growing pains for the first year players in SEC play and that was evident against Mizzou. The Wildcats continue to be a committed team on the defensive end of the floor and are riding a wave of strong play from Nick Richards to raise their offensive ceiling.

There are still major issues to iron out as they have to start getting something from EJ Montgomery while both Keion Brooks and Kahlil Whitney are going through growing pains. Tyrese Maxey’s streaky shooting still remains a game-to-game issue and now the recent injury to Ashton Hagans will have to be dealt with. This group has grown in a lot of ways, but there are still major areas where improvement is needed.

On to Georgia.

Article written by Adam Luckett

Twitter: @AdamLuckettKSR