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Kentucky Basketball

Five Takeaways from Kentucky's Win Over Ole Miss

February 15, 2020
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Ole Miss came in with a clear gameplan to out-physical Kentucky. They bothered Nick Richards all day, frustrating him and throwing him off his game for the majority of the first half. Ole Miss took the rock fight down to the wire, but Kentucky was able to prevail with two things they have relied on all year, good defense and clutch free-throw shooting. 

Kentucky couldn't buy a bucket in the first half, shooting 1 for 13 from three and just 30% from the field. Quickley was especially cold, going one for nine from the field and zero for five from three. Kentucky also turned the ball over nine times, leading to ten points off turnovers. Yet, despite the lack of execution, Kentucky trailed by just two. 

The second half saw them improve slightly from the field, but they hit just one more three in the game, finishing 2-22 from beyond the arc. They were able to hit from the free-throw line, however, going 13-14 in the final twenty minutes to put them over the top. EJ Montgomery, despite fouling out, provided several key hustle plays for UK, which led to second-chance opportunities.  

All in all, Kentucky pulled out another victory in which they played down to their competition. This game will not be featured in this team's end-of-season highlights, but they got the win nonetheless and are 20-5 going into LSU game on Tuesday. Here are the five biggest takeaways from the game.

Quickley was still the closer, despite his slow start
After the game, Quickley wasn't shy about his poor shooting day. He finished one-eight from three and 8-10 from the free-throw line, his first game missing multiple free throws this year. However, despite his early struggles, he scored 11 of his 17 points in the final 10 minutes. It is clear that he and Maxey are the closers, even in games where Hagans doesn't foul out.

Kentucky has to be the most clutch free throw team in the country
IQ is 27 for 27 from the free-throw line in the final three minutes of games. Nick Richards is 25 for 29. Even Keion stepped up today, hitting two big free throws to ice the game. Kentucky went 13-14 from the free-throw line in the second half. On days where they can't score on jump shots and at the rim, it is clear that their ability to make free throws doesn't waver. 

There's a new standard for Nick Richards
In the postgame presser, John Calipari talked about relying on his guards because "It wasn't his [Nick Richards] day today." While he was clearly frustrated by Ole Miss' physicality and lack of consistency from the officials, Richards was still effective. He went for 16 points and 7 rebounds, something he did just once in his first two seasons with Kentucky. If Kentucky can get 16 points and 7 rebounds from Nick Richards on an off day, they are going to win a lot of basketball games.

Hagans continues to lack discipline
It's no secret that Hagans hasn't played his best over the last month. He has turned the ball over at least 4 times in five of the last seven games and has picked up sloppy fouls at times. Hagans took five threes today, a career high in attempts, missing all five. He fouled out with a minute, picking up a cheap foul on a dribble handoff almost at midcourt. Kentucky has won every game in this stretch other than at Auburn, but as they get closer to March, it will be important to see progress from Hagans on the offensive side of the ball. While the fouls can sometimes be a problem, Hagans is still an elite on-ball defender, something Kermit Davis reiterated in his post-game presser. When asked about Hagans' struggles post-game, Calipari expressed the utmost confidence, saying "he's my point guard." 

Kentucky held Brein Tyree in check
Coming into today's game, he had scored 101 points in the past three games, including a 40-point performance against Mississippi State. While he ended the game with a respectable 19 points, he shot just 38% from the field and took just 16 shots, his lowest total since February 1st at LSU. 
He also had multiple chances to cash in from the free-throw line late in the game but missed the front end on two one-and-ones despite being an 80% free throw shooter. Kentucky's defense was outstanding on him all day, which culminated in the last play when Ole Miss was unable to get him involved in the final shot.

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Five Takeaways from Kentucky's Win Over Ole Miss

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