The December non-conference schedule started with a bang on Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena as Kentucky dismantled Fairleigh Dickinson 83-52 at Rupp Arena.
EJ Montgomery finished with a career-high 25 points and nine rebounds to lead the way, including 16 in the first half. He alone made sure the Knights never had a chance in this one.
Nick Richards chipped in a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards.
Ashton Hagans had the rare 11-11 line with 11 points and 11 dimes.
Keion Brooks added 15 off the bench in his best game as a Wildcat.
Now, here are some takeaways from Kentucky’s dominant performance:
EJ Montgomery gets better each game
Since returning from an ankle injury, Montgomery has been a different player, running the floor, blocking shots and finishing on the offensive end in transition. He’s also proven that he can hit the face-up jumper and continues to build confidence within Kentucky’s half-court offense.
After struggling much of last year to find his place offensively, the 6-foot-10 forward seems to have found his comfort zone and just might become that “difference makers” that UK Coach John Calipari is looking for as we get into the meat of the schedule.
This is the EJ Montgomery Kentucky needs to contend for a title.
This team needs Immanuel Quickley to score
At this point in the season, Quickley looks very confident with the ball in his hands and has the ability to create his own shot off the dribble. He’s also a good enough shooter that he takes a little bit of the pressure off of Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey around the perimeter.
Quickley finished with just seven points but had one of Kentucky’s lone triples in this game. Just a matter of time before Quickley jumps back into the starting lineup as the three-guard combination of Hagans, Maxey and Quickley seem to be UK’s best look during the conference season.
Speaking of Maxey, the freshman has another forgettable performance, scoring just two points on 1/8 shooting. While he clearly has more upside that Quickley, perhaps the veteran should be the one getting more minutes (Maxey played 27 compared to 22 for Quickley).
Keion Brooks Needs More Playing Time
Brooks played just a little over five minutes in the first half, but still managed to show signs of improvement on the offensive end. At 6-foot-7, Brooks isn’t quite big enough to play the post and hasn’t proven that he can shoot it well enough to earn any extra minutes facing the basket. Brooks finished with 15 points on 6/11 shooting and five rebounds.
It also doesn’t help that Calipari seems to have a quick trigger with Brook’s defensive struggles. Playing time gets tougher to come by when Nate Sestina returns, so Brooks is a little lost in the shuffle. However, he’s just too talented to not be an impact player this year for a team that still needs some fight and toughness on the court.
Johnny Juzang, Kahlil Whitney still searching for answers
Juzang made his first career start on Saturday and scored the team’s first basket. Unfortunately, that was the end of the story for the freshman guard who just can’t see to find a rhythm from behind the three-point line and missed some easy shots in the lane.
Other than the occasional dunk, Whitney also continues to struggle and still seems lost and confused within the offense. At some point, Juzang should get hot and light it up from deep.
Whitney, on the other hand, still has a ways to go and really needs to get better during Camp Cal practice sessions over the break. If nothing else, he needs to commit to being a defensive-stopper while his offense catches up throughout the season.
The Cats need a “Chicken Biscuit Crowd” against Louisville
Another decent crowd was on hand for a Saturday afternoon during the Christmas season, but the Rupp Arena faithful will really need to kick up a notch with the No 1-ranked Louisville Cardinals coming to town on December 28th. Once again, the loudest Rupp Arena got on Saturday was when an FDU missed the first two free throws and a free chicken biscuit was hanging in the balance.
Kentucky, 7-1, back in action on December 14th as Georgia Tech comes to Rupp Arena for a 5:00 p.m. start.