The Kentucky Wildcats found themselves in a battle with the Alabama Crimson Tide today, letting a 15 point lead evaporate before pulling away in the final minutes for a 76-67 win. Kentucky won the game using a balanced attack with 4 different players in double figures.
Nick Richards had his seventh double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds in addition to 5 (!) blocks. Immanuel Quickley stayed hot, hitting 5 of 6 three-pointers to lead the way with 19 points.
The Cats are finally hitting from deep, and what a difference it makes. Kentucky hit 5 of 7 attempts in the first half and finished the game shooting 60% from three. Immanuel Quickley led the way from behind the three-point line with 5 makes on 6 attempts.
Solid outside shooting certainly clears more space for Nick Richards to go to work. And perhaps his recent emergence has had an impact on getting more open looks from the guards. Either way, this team takes on a different identity offensively when they are making outside shots.
Kentucky have 6 blocks in the first half. Nick Richards had 4 of those and Nate Sestina had 2 big ones. If the Wildcats are able to protect the rim in that way, it will help them get more transition buckets and allow the guards to be more aggressive on the perimeter. They finished the game with just 8, but they definitely set the tone early that scoring in the paint would not be easy.
Not only does the presence of Richards blocking shots impact the game directly, but he also cause several players to alter their shots when driving into the paint. It has been a while since Kentucky has had a good one, but having a solid rim protect changes everything on the defensive end.
Bad on Defensive Glass
The only downside to blocking a lot of shots is that everyone wants to get in on the action. More help comes on drives, and that leaves the back side open for an offensive rebound.
Alabama had 16 offensive boards for the game, which is terrible and very unlike this Kentucky team. This led to way too many second chance points from the Tide, which was the main reason Alabama closed the gap in the second half.
The Wildcats would have run away with this thing had they taken care of the ball. Whether it was a called travel, a missed pass, or guards putting themselves in no-win positions with the ball, Kentucky was not very disciplined on the offensive end.
They finished the game with 14 turnovers, which is not good. It is even worse when you see they only had as many assists as well. They shot at a good clip, but otherwise did not look crisp on the offensive end.
Montgomery Inching Closer
EJ Montgomery has had spurts in games throughout the season where he looks like he knows what he is doing. But the other 90% of the time he has looked completely lost. He seemed to be more balanced during today’s game.
Montgomery hit a few jumpers and also took the ball to the basket with some efficiency. He finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds, and passed the eye test on his spacing and defensive presence. You would like to see a few more boards on his stat line, but this is a good start.