The Cats went back and forth to start the game before it eventually slowed down. After that, Ashton Hagans hit a big three to put UK up 29-28 at the break.
After the half, the scoring picked up for both teams and it was a back-and-forth battle until the end. Kentucky was able to pull away in the final 10 minutes for the big-time win!
Next up, Kentucky will return to Lexington to take on the Florida Gators on Saturday night.
Late in the game, Ashton Hagans had to leave the court with was reported as a thigh injury. He headed to the locker room for further examination and eventually returned to the bench but was clearly favoring the injured leg.
Kentucky was able to finish out the game thanks to Tyrese Maxey running the show, but if Hagans misses time, it will be a major loss for the Wildcats. He’s the team’s best passer and perimeter defender, so Kentucky can’t afford to have him sidelined for long if they’re going to win the SEC and earn a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Thankfully in the closing seconds, ESPN reporter Marty Smith said it was just a thigh bruise, which shouldn’t keep Hagans out too long.
We knew coming into this one that Kentucky had struggled to limit offensive rebounds. That meant bad news against one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country.
However, while the Tigers are great on the offensive boards, they aren’t quite as good on the defensive side. That led to several offensive rebounds for both teams.
At the half, Kentucky had 11 and LSU had 10 offensive rebounds. I had to do a double check because that’s ridiculous, but more importantly because neither team scored 30 points. The shots just weren’t falling.
Both teams were hitting the glass hard. Whether it be off blocks or hustle for LSU or Kentucky taking advantage of its size, they both scored a lot off second chances.
Kentucky had a size advantage on the block, but LSU had a size advantage everywhere. However, that didn’t keep the Cats from having a block party.
In the first half alone, UK had eight blocks, including five from Nick Richards. The Tigers start two 6-6 bigs and Richards was feasting.
Kentucky was blocking shots left and right. It led to offensive rebounds and they don’t always control the rebound, but it’s fun to watch.
Brooks is still finding his way
This can be said about a lot of guys, but Keion Brooks is really struggling to find his identity right now.
He sometimes doesn’t know what to do when he gets the ball and he just looks like he isn’t comfortable right now. He almost looks like he was a 6-0 guard that grew several inches over the summer and is still getting used to his body.
That’s not the case, but I don’t think he knows whether he’s a three or four. He’s skinny, but he has small forward-type skills. He needs to refine his dribbling, as well as his shot, but there’s certainly a ton of potential there.
His rebounding is already way above-average. He finds a way to get to the ball and you can see his length and athleticism when he’s fighting for the ball. Now, that just needs to translate to the rest of his game.
He’ll be a decent contributor for the rest of this season, but he could be really special in a year or two.
Montgomery could be a star next season
Look, I know he’s frustrating at times, but the man has a special, special skill-set and and he’s coming along nicely. He hustles and he does things other bigs just can’t do.
The way he finesses his way around the basket is excellent. He has good length and athleticism, and he’s shown an ability to pass the ball.
He struggled tonight, mainly due to questionable foul trouble, but don’t let the stats foul you. He’s close to breaking through.
He could be a prototypical NBA four if he continues to progress. I just hope he gives it time before making the jump.
Sestina came to play...defensively
I’ve given Nate Sestina a lot of grief this season, but tonight, he earned the praise.
Sestina was excellent on the defensive end of the floor for the first time in awhile. He was active and affected several shots. He threw one shot 15 feet away from the goal on a block.
One thing you can’t take away from him is his passion and hustle. And you just can’t teach that.
He will be an important player come March—for good or bad. He hit his first three in the month of February tonight..and that was just one of three for him. If the three-ball starts falling again, watch out.
We’re all cheering for your success, Nate.
Quickley came to play, but what’s new?
With Tyrese Maxey struggling for a majority of the game, the Cats needed someone to step up. It was Immanuel Quickley. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Quickley has evolved his game tremendously this season as he simply does it all, especially on the offensive end. Tonight, he wasn’t just scoring, though. He was also setting up his teammates in a big way.
IQ has become one of Kentucky’s best players, and its best scorer. His ability to shoot and draw fouls is second to none.
He isn’t afraid to drive and take the contact. He has a perfect floater. And, of course, we all know how well he can knock down the deep shot.
He answered the bell tonight.
Kentucky went into a hostile road environment against arguably the second best team in the SEC and came out with the win tonight.
What an impressive performance for the Cats. And, per usual, they’re hitting their stride right as March rolls around.