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Kentucky Basketball

Five Takeaways from the Cats' 76-67 win over Alabama

January 11, 2020

Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and Nick Richards led Kentucky to a milestone win in Rupp Arena. Together they went a combined 15-31 from the field and scored 47 of Kentucky’s 76 total points. Nate Sestina hit two threes in the first ten minutes of the game but was quiet from then on. Coming out of halftime, Kentucky looked like they were going to keep their foot on the gas. They pushed their ten-point halftime lead to 15 in the first three minutes of the second half. However, they scored just five points over the next eight minutes and allowed Bama to cut their lead to five. The teams traded buckets for the next five minutes, with Bama cutting the lead to three multiple times. With 2:05 to play, Kentucky led 70-67. The final two minutes were all blue, however, with Quickley scoring five of the final six points to solidify Kentucky’s 1,000th SEC win.

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the game:

Ashton Hagans is really, really good.

15 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 steals. Hagans was an assist and a rebound away from a triple-double and was a calming force in the second half. When the offense stalled and the defense began leaking points to Alabama, Hagans got the team back on track. He hit a huge three with 3:02 left to push the from four to seven and either assisted or made six of the ten field goals in the second half. One rebound and assists away from a triple-double.

Nick Richards with a big game. Again.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point. Nick Richards registered his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 13 points to go along with 11 rebounds. He hit a couple of mid-range jumpers again today and came up with some big boy offensive rebounds. He wasn’t just working on the offensive end though. Richards added 5 blocks, his second-highest total of the season and honestly should have had at least one more if not for a questionable foul call. Richards is currently 17th in the country in true shooting percentage and has become a much-needed anchor in the frontcourt for this Kentucky team.

The Cats were on fire from three.

Kentucky hit five more threes than Bama, who came in averaging almost seven more made threes than UK before today. Immanuel Quickley hit 5-6 from three and Sestina hit two early as well. Kentucky ended the game shooting 60% as a team. Kentucky is up to 32% from three as a team this season after shooting 44.2% in their three Quickley is now shooting 61% over his last four games. Cal said before the season this was one of his best shooting teams, and they are starting to show flashes. If they can keep this up, college basketball better watch out.

Alabama was not on fire from three.

Kentucky held Bama to 19% from three despite the Crimson Time shooting 37.2% coming into today. UK, led by Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey, held John Petty to 3-8, who was shooting 50% from three. Bama led just once in the game when it took a 10-8 lead with 14:12 left to play in the first half, and Kentucky’s defense on their shooters was a big reason. It was obvious that three-point defense was a priority for the Cats, as Alabama was able to counter with backdoor cuts due to Kentucky’s desire to protect the deep ball.

Kentucky still hasn’t found its fifth man.

Teams are normally looking for a sixth man to come off the bench and provide a scoring spark. However, Kentucky has that already in Immanuel Quickley. What Kentucky has needed all season is a fifth man to round out the closing lineup and provide a partner for Nick Richards in the frontcourt.  While it wasn’t a breakout performance, EJ Montgomery looked more engaged, scoring 8 points and grabbing 6 boards. Sestina hit two threes early but also got beat a couple of times on defense. Brooks and Whitney were essentially non-factors, playing just 18 minutes between the two of them.

At times in the second half, the team looked somewhat tired, surrendering 50/50 balls and uncharacteristically missing free throws. Richards, Maxey, Hagans, and Quickley all played at least 32 minutes. Being able to rely on subs to come into the game and perform will be key as the Cats get even deeper into SEC play, where the physical nature of the league can wear you down. Kentucky needs to find ways to get quality minutes from players outside of its top four if it wants to compete for a championship this year.

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Five Takeaways from the Cats' 76-67 win over Alabama

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