Despite only having seven scholarship players suited up on Monday, the Kentucky Wildcats managed to bounce by from last week’s embarrassing loss to get a 82-74 win over Utah Valley.
With EJ Montgomery and Immanuel Quickley sidelined, in addition to Dontaie Allen’s continued absence, the short-handed Wildcats showed signs of life that were definitely not there a week ago.
Ashton Hagans led the way for the Wildcats with 26 points and Nate Sestina finally asserted himself on the boards to pull down 12 rebounds. As far as we know, Hagans is still not 100%, but he still managed to lead the team in points and lead the Wildcats to victory by being perfect from the free throw line down the stretch.
If Kentucky is going to be able to contend for a national championship in March, the one position that has to improve the most is in the post. If junior Nick Richards can look more like Bahamas Nick Richards, then this squad can still be elite.
Thankfully, he stepped up on Monday to look much like the player the Wildcats need him to be.
Richards posted a double-double for the game, putting up 10 rebounds and 21 points. He was making jumpers, draining jump hooks, and throwing down dunks. And he really changed the game by asserting himself on the defensive end.
Nick Richards clamped down on the little man on the perimeter. pic.twitter.com/rkPNYUNgjx— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) November 19, 2019
This was a strong outing by Richards, but he needs to continue to grow and be more aggressive in the paint if John Calipari is going to lead this team to the next level. For tonight, though, the Wildcats survive and Nick Richards is your MVP, though Hagans deserves a shout out for his career-high 26 points, which included a lot of critical free throws down the stretch of a game Kentucky narrowly lead in during the final minutes.