The Kentucky Wildcats went all the way down to Lubbock, Texas and found themselves in a war. After leading by 10 points in the second half, Kentucky struggled down the stretch but held on to defeat the Texas Tech Red Raiders in overtime 76-74.
The Wildcats were led by Nick Richards with 25 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Immanuel Quickley added 21 points. Despite 20 turnovers, the Wildcats were able to hold on in a hostile environment to pick up the win.
Rough day for the guards
The source of my confidence in this year’s team in March is the guard play. With the Cats’ three primary guards in the game, I feel confident that Kentucky will take care of the ball and be able to defend, which is key in the NCAA Tournament.
However, the first 15 minutes in Lubbock were rough. Ashton Hagans had as many turnovers as assists and missed an easy layup, and Tyrese Maxey looked like he was trying to do too much in Texas and made some costly mistakes.
Turnovers continued to be a problem down the stretch, and Maxey really struggled late. He forced a late three in regulation, was called for an offensive foul (which actually was one, more on that later) with just under two minutes to go, and then air balled a baseline jumper at the one minute mark. But his buddies picked him up and clawed out the victory in overtime.
Nick bleepin’ Richards
There were times against Texas Tech that Nick Richards looked like he was at Kentucky’s summer father-son camp. He got just about every rebound that he wanted, dunked with authority MANY times, and still avoided foul trouble early. That’s not to mention the game-winning free throws with 10 seconds left in overtime.
Richards ended the game with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Nobody has put up those numbers since Anthony Davis. I know more and more mock drafts will be released in the coming months. I cannot imagine how Richards’ name will continue to be left off. The man has turned into a beast, and he deserves all the recognition he can get.
I feel like I am taking crazy pills. When did “drawing a charge” turn into leaving your man to step in front of a player already in the air? The call on Maxey in the first half was pretty bad, but the one against Hagans was atrocious. That’s not to mention the OT charge against Quickley when he was undercut by the defender.
As long as officials will reward lazy defense with foul calls, the game of college basketball will continue to devolve. These guys are learning how to manipulate the rules instead of playing actual defense. And 90% of the time, the rule is incorrectly enforced. Something has to be done as the product is becoming borderline unwatchable.
To be clear, there were some bad charge calls on the other side as well. I just did not commit those plays to memory.
On the road
For the second Saturday in a row, the Wildcats played in a hostile road environment. While the environment at Arkansas was incredible last week, the fans at Texas Tech stepped up and were just as loud. Yet the Wildcats found a way to win when things got really tough.
And this raucous road trip is nowhere near over. Next week, Kentucky plays at Auburn. The following Saturday, the Wildcats will travel to the dreaded Thompson-Boling Arena. Some people complain about the lack of true road games in the fall, but Kentucky is really making up for it this Spring.
Immanuel Quickley looks like a pro
I know. He is the “third guard” on this team. He has never appeared in an NBA mock draft. And I doubt John Calipari has gotten a ton of calls from scouts. But that needs to change.
Yes, he is hitting a very high percentage of three-pointers right now. And he is a lights-out free throw shooter. But if you really watch his game, it looks like a perfect fit for the NBA. He moves well away from the ball, he hits tough floaters on the run, he is defending at a very high level, and like I said earlier, he hits threes at a higher clip than most guys hit free throws.
He certainly needs to rebound a little better, and putting on some muscle would not hurt. I am not saying he is a lottery pick or even a first round-type player. But I do think his game will translate to playing professional basketball.
I know it is not a perfect comparison, but his game reminds me of Tyler Herro from last season. He plays with confidence, hits shots off of screens, and creates his own looks. But if you watch Quickley play and do not think he could be productive at the next level, I have no idea what you are seeing.
Now let’s talk about that incredible game!