The Kentucky Wildcats came out swinging on Friday night and played solid in the first half. Besides their 13-point halftime lead, the most encouraging stats came from sophomore forward EJ Montgomery, who tallied eight points and six rebounds in the first 20 minutes of action.
UK’s other frontcourt starter, Nick Richards, also played well early by scoring eight points at the intermission, including several early slam dunks. With the absence of Nick Sestina for the foreseeable future getting solid play from Montgomery and Richard like the Cats did tonight will be crucial moving forward.
Ashton Hagans played arguably his best half of the season by dishing out eight assists and only committing one turnover. Hagans looked comfortable and at times showed signs of elite vision. Kentucky is a totally different team when Hagans is efficiently distributing the ball to his teammates.
The second half was much of the same as the Cats never really let the Blazers come within striking distance. It was a heavy dose of UK’s bigs as Richards and Montgomery dominated the game, mostly by finishing at the rim on assists from Hagans.
Besides the Michigan State game in the Champions Classic, this victory over UAB has to be the most encouraging game of this young season. UK played well despite only having access to a limited roster and never let the Blazers believe that they had a chance to win, and seeing Montgomery finally break out was big for his confidence moving forward. Kentucky simply isn’t going to be a legitimate Final Four threat without Montgomery playing like he did tonight.
Here is what Twitter had to say about Kentucky’s big win on Friday night.
FINAL: Kentucky 69, UAB 58— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) November 30, 2019
Ashton Hagans 9 points, 12 assists
Nick Richards 16 points, 9 rebounds
EJ Montgomery 16 points, 8 rebounds
Great bullet entry pass by Keion Brooks to EJ Montgomery for the slam. pic.twitter.com/ipeGbJmaGD— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) November 30, 2019
We're all in agreement that Nick Richards is a lottery pick, right?— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) November 30, 2019
Richards just missed another double-double with 16 points, 9 boards. 7-for-7 from the field in 27 minutes but looking so much better game after game— Vaughts' Views (@vaughtsviews) November 30, 2019
Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery having themselves a game— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) November 30, 2019
Ashton Hagans creeping on that record. Ties his career high with 12 assists, almost eight minutes to go.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) November 30, 2019
Montgomery 14 and 8, Richards 16 and 8, Kentucky up 58-45, 7:22 2H.
Bro.. I’m telling you if he does it against halfway decent competition, Nick is a first rounder this season.— Travis Graf (@Trav_Graf) November 30, 2019
Montgomery and Richards have played really, really well but Hagans is making them look awesome. He is putting it in perfect scoring position.— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) November 30, 2019
Tyrese Maxey with the tough drive and left hand finish. pic.twitter.com/GCE0Q3ePXA— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) November 30, 2019
Hagans with an absolute gem tonight. He’s dishing, setting up teammates and he’s a glove on Defense. Truly coming of age I think. Gotta keep growing and working on his finishing at the rim, but loving his maturation. @TBrown_80— Michael Paul Clark (@UKDad21) November 30, 2019
UAB came into the game ranked No. 2 nationally in offensive rebound percentage. Kentucky won 39-26 on the glass, 11-8 on the offensive glass. https://t.co/GGNUsUqa8u— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) November 30, 2019
The Wildcats led by as many as 20 at 67-47 but the Blazers closed the game on an 11-2 run.— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) November 30, 2019
Catch and shoot 3 by Johnny Juzang. pic.twitter.com/pSPuhLciYN— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) November 30, 2019
32 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks from Richards and Montgomery is a heck of a stat line.— Big Blue Express (@bigbluexpress) November 30, 2019
With Sestina out, this was the PT breakdown for Kentucky:— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) November 30, 2019
Hagans 34, Maxey 33, EJ 31, Richards 27, Brooks 21, Quickley 21, Whitney 19, Juzang 12
UK finished with 19 assists on 26 made field goals, thanks in large part to Ashton Hagans' 12 assists, which tied a career-high.— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) November 30, 2019
*does best DJ Khaled voice* Another One— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) November 30, 2019
Cats pick up another win after defeating UAB 69-58.
Richards: 16 pts, 9 reb
Montgomery: 16 pts, 8 reb
Hagans: 9 pts, 3 reb, 12 ast (!) pic.twitter.com/sZ7dzsKeKZ
Calipari: "We're going to be fine. It's tough when you have eight guys, but if you're one of the eight, you're happy."— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) November 30, 2019