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Kentucky Basketball

Kentucky Tames the Tigers 73-66

February 29, 2020
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Kentucky took down Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers 73-66 in Rupp Arena, avenging their February 1st loss at Auburn. It was a sloppy game, with 23 personal fouls called on each team, but Kentucky was able to take advantage from the free-throw line and prevail. Surprisingly, neither coach got a technical, although they were all over the refs from the opening tip. Kentucky moves to 24-5 on the year with games against Tennessee at home and Florida on the road left in the regular season. It wasn’t a pretty game, but the Cats got it done in the end. Here are the four biggest takeaways.

Kentucky Clinches the SEC Regular Season Championship

That was an ugly game. Inconsistent refs and an inability to finish at the rim led to a nailbiter that seemed back and forth the entire game. However, no matter the style points, Kentucky has clinched its 49th SEC Regular Season title with two games to play. No matter what they do against Tennessee and Florida, the Cats will have the 1 seed in the SEC tournament. They also notch another Quad 1 win for their NET resume on a day where 7 ranked teams went down before 7:00 PM. As Kentucky looks to secure the best seed come tournament time, this win sets them up nicely.

Another game where you don’t get all of Nick Richards

Outside of a dominant performance at home against Ole Miss, Nick hasn’t been himself the past six games. Now, this is Junior Nick Richards we are talking about, so he still is making an impact, but he hasn’t been Kentucky’s go-to guy. Foul trouble has plagued the big man, registering at least four fouls in three of the past five games, and tonight was no different. Nick missed a lot of the first half with two fouls and ended the game playing just 19 minutes.  However, against a tough Auburn team that outrebounded the Cats by 15 last meeting, Kentucky held their own. Austin Wiley was also in foul trouble, which helped even the playing field down low, which led to a small-ball first half. Huge credit to the guards, especially Maxey and Quickley, for their effort on the glass. If you can get 14 points and 3 rebounds from Richards on an off night where he plays less than 20 minutes, UK will take that every day.

Quickley again is the leader of the team

Speaking of Quickley, he registered a double-double, securing 12 rebounds to go along with his game-high 18 points. While he didn’t have his best shooting night, going just 3-10 from the field and 1-5 from three, Quickley knocked down all 11 of his free throws to lead his team to a victory. Yet again, he also did the majority of his work in the second half, scoring 12 of his 18 in the final 20 minutes. It is clear he is the go-to guy on the offensive end for Kentucky, and he continues to deliver. Quickley has emerged as the best player on this Kentucky team, and he should be the frontrunner for SEC player of the year.

Hagans’ struggles continue on the offensive end

Hagans has a mental block with Auburn, and his woes continued today. While turnovers weren’t necessarily the problem today, he was an abysmal 2-13 from the field and had seemingly countless point-blank misses. Hagans has been banged up and is toughing through multiple minor injuries, but his play on the offensive end cannot be disregarded. 

Calipari has continued to ensure he has full confidence in his point guard, but it has become increasingly obvious that the offense is more and more in the hands of Maxey and Quickley in late-game situations. Maxey even ran the point in a couple of possessions at the end of the game, with Hagans moving to the wing. Hagans will continue to be an important piece in their zone-beater offense, but it is clear that Maxey and Quickley will be taking on a bigger role in offensive initiation moving forward. 

Also, for all the Hagans haters out there who act like he’s a bum, stop. He is still an elite defender, likely the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and Kentucky needs him to make a deep run. Is Hagans frustrating on the offensive end? Yes. But the hate is getting to a ‘Harrison Twins in the Wisconsin Game’ level and it is just as ridiculous and misplaced. If you find yourself bashing Hagans, please don’t take his defense and overall effort for granted.

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Kentucky Tames the Tigers 73-66

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