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Kentucky Basketball

Cats Find A Spark in Second Half, Defeat Mount St. Mary's 82-62

November 22, 2019

After once again middling through another 20 minutes of basketball in the first half, UK’s fire was lit by Immanuel Quickley, as the Cats found some rhythm and ran away from a scrappy Mt. St. Mary’s club 82-62 In Rupp Arena tonight. With the win, UK moves to 4-1 on the young season and regains some confidence in itself after managing to fairly easily put away a lesser opponent on its home floor. After only leading by 5 at halftime, UK dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half, surging out to a 69-44 lead with 10:25 left, after a 30-10 run. The run was fueled by 5 threes, 3 by Quickley and 2 by EJ Montgomery and Kahlil Whitney, when it seemed all of a sudden the Cats could not miss. It was a sight for UK fans’ sore eyes, as UK had struggled in its last three games to make anything from the three-point line.

Nick Richards was dominant once again all night, as he took advantage of his size over the smaller Mt. St. Mary’s squad. Nick finished with 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Nick is giving coach Cal exactly what has been asked of him, blocking shots, and converting a higher % inside. Nick has also shown a soft touch out to 18 feet, as he again hit a couple of jumpers from outside. The only thing Nick had a bit of a hard time doing was containing the point guard on switches at the top of the key. UK’s bigs, and especially Nick, were constantly switched onto the 5-8 waterbug Damian Chong Qui, as he was able to shake the slower bigs and score inside and out and distribute to outside shooters, especially in the first half. UK was able to slow him down in the second half as UK tightened up its perimeter defense led as usual by Ashton Hagans’ smothering defense. Kentucky was able to get in the passing lanes and get several deflections and disrupt the Mountaineers offense in the 2nd half as they also went cold from outside, only finishing 5-24 from three on the night.

Kentucky finally shot the ball well in all three phases tonight, finishing at 55% overall from the field, 40% from three, and 89% from the free-throw line. The Cats also racked up 20 assists on 30 baskets, a fantastic stat, showing the ball was moving and guys were making the extra pass. A few of those assists came on lobs off drives from Hagans, as he finished with 7 assists. Hagans also totaled 16 points, 7 rebounds, and only 2 turnovers on the night, and the offense ran very efficiently with him on the floor. Hagans was able to use his size and quickness to get in the lane and distribute or finish off plays in the paint, something that has been a bit of an issue in Hagans’ career, to this point.

Tyrese Maxey finished with 11 points and 5 assists, and Kahlil Whitney added 9 points and a couple steals while playing solid defense all night and being active and not trying to do too much on the floor. Keion Brooks also was active defensively and on the boards. EJ Montgomery returned from his ankle injury to a total of 7 points and 6 boards in very limited action because of foul trouble. He was very aggressively looking for his shot and made a couple of jumpers and his only three-point attempt. If EJ could have stayed out of foul trouble he could have had a nice scoring night and likely a double-double. The only player who couldn’t get off the schneid tonight was Johnny Juzang, as he missed all 4 of his attempts, and had a couple rattle out. It feels like Johny just needs to see a couple of shots fall and he’ll start heating up.

All in all, progress was made tonight, and it was nice to see the full complement of players be able to play together in meaningful action. While there is still a ways to go on both ends, the Cats looked very potent in the first 10 minutes of the second half tonight. When this team can get out and run off defensive boards and steals they are a lethal group, but the half-court offense is still a work in progress, especially when Hagans isn’t running the show. On defense, UK is trying to scramble and help as much as possible but must be more disciplined in finishing the defensive possession off. The Cats will look to build on tonight’s gains with a short turnaround to their next game, Sunday at 6 pm at Rupp, as they face Lamar. The game will again be televised on the SEC Network.

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Cats Find A Spark in Second Half, Defeat Mount St. Mary's 82-62

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