UK started out fast, but was quickly slowed down by college basketball’s incompetent referees. They went into the half down 37-31 after Nick Richards and Nate Sestina picked up two fouls very early.
And the Bulldogs let everyone know who was in charge going into the break as the players stood on the floor boasting their six-point lead. Like Cal says, we’re everyone’s Super Bowl.
Kentucky took notice. And they came storming back in the second half. Despite the free throw woes, the Cats were able to pull off a solid win in their first true road game of the year.
Next up, the Cats will return home to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday afternoon.
Ashton Hagans was back
The starting lineup remained the same. And that’s good because that means Hagans was back in action.
He started 0-5 from the field, but he still made his presence felt.
Ashton Hagans with the big swat pic.twitter.com/Fnt1KZHM0W— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) January 8, 2020
Once the nerves calmed down, he slowed himself down and returned to form.
It was good to see Hagans out there, especially after what looked like an extremely scary injury. He is the engine that keeps this train going.
College basketball officiating is still terrible
I’ve mentioned it over and over, but it can’t be said enough. Something has to change.
It’s making the games hard to watch. Your favorite players get two fouls when they breathe too heavily. Then you push someone blatantly and the referees call nothing.
It has to change. I’m not sure how and I’m not sure what to do, but the NCAA has to do something to improve it.
When fans freak out in the NCAA Tournament because of the officiating that costs their team a chance at a championship, maybe they’ll listen.
Shoutout to PJ Washington. He knows.
College refs are terrible— Paul Washington Jr (@PJWashington) January 8, 2020
Nate Sestina could not guard a brick wall
I love Sestina’s heart. I love his hustle. And I love his energy.
He might be the best pure three-point shooter on the team along with Immanuel Quickley. But he’s becoming a guy that you just can’t have on the court because he’s so bad defensively.
Like I said, I like some things he does. I like him. It’s just becoming unbearable to watch.
He gets in foul trouble because he can’t keep up with guys. They either run right past him and score or run right past him and he fouls.
He has to play because Kentucky needs a big body out there, but I don’t know what you do with him at this point.
Guard someone, hit some threes, and rebound, or don’t play. Period.
Richards has become a staple
It’s no secret that Richards is important to this team, but he’s become a legitimate staple.
His ability to score around the bucket, stretch to the midrange, defend the rim, and rebound is second to none on this team.
We all thought we’d see the sophomore jump from Montgomery. In its place, we got Junior Nick Richards, and it’s been fun to watch.
When he picked up his second foul early in the first half, we struggled. It’s amazing how he went from a five-star recruit, to every game starter, to playing less and less and LESS minutes over his two years, to finally rounding into form this season.
I’m happy for him. I just wish we had another big man that could bask in the glory with him.
Keion Brooks, Jr. will be a star
He show flashes. He was an underrated recruit. It may take 2-3 years to see his full potential, but it’s coming.
Brooks understands his role on the team and right now it’s defense and attack when needed. He hasn’t shown a ton of his ability.
Maybe it’s due to his frame. He’s very skinny in a big’s body. He’s pretty athletic, but he’s also awkward at times. But once he figures it out, he will be a force.
And I’m confident in saying that. Don’t believe it now, but Brooks is special.
Tyrese Maxey did not back down to the Anthony Edwards challenge
Maxey can play with the best of them. He’s got the heart of a lion and he heats up quick.
He can also force shots and struggle at times. But he’s a freshman. It happens.
One thing he hasn’t backed down from, though, is the big stage.
Tonight, he went head-to-head with a potential top-five draft pick and he didn’t flinch.
Edwards got his, but so did Maxey. When UK struggled to find offense, Maxey responded.
He’s only a freshman, but he knows how to answer the call.
Enjoy him while you can, BBN.
That was a heck of an effort from the Cats. They struggled at times. They dealt with foul trouble. And they withstood a raucous home crowd in Athens.
But they never wavered. And that’s what separates good teams from great ones.