In the last home game of the season, and Senior Night, Sestina put an exclamation point to the end of a high-scoring first half to put the Cats up 42-31.
After the break, the Cats finally extended a lead. They pushed it to 17 points in the second half before absolutely falling apart. It’s a bad loss on the resume at home right before the Madness begins.
Josh Fulkerson had a monster game, scoring a career-high 27 points to lead the Vols to the monster upset. Josiah-Jordan-James went for 16, while Yves Pons added 15.
New starting five for Senior Night
Nate Sestina got the start tonight in honor of Senior Night for his final game in Rupp Arena. The rest of the lineup remained the same minus EJ Montgomery.
Sestina joined the Cats as a graduate transfer from Bucknell for this season. Sestina has had some ups and downs this year, but his leadership, hustle, and effort can never be questioned.
Despite some seemingly streaky shooting, Sestina is shooting 40% from deep this season and provides a solid post presence at times. His defense isn’t great, but it’s gotten better as the season has progressed.
Sestina was never going to be Reid Travis, but he didn’t need to be. He improved during his time at Kentucky and got to play for the greatest tradition in college basketball for his final season of eligibility.
We’ll miss you, Nate!
Contributions from everyone
Johnny Juzang, Keion Brooks, and Sestina all put up positive numbers off the bench.
Juzang found his stroke from outside, while continuing to hustle and rebound. Brooks is an offensive putback machine. The rest of his game hasn’t caught up yet, but he’s figuring out how to be effective nonetheless. And Sestina worked all night long on both ends of the floor.
These three guys will be incredibly important once the tournament begins. Kentucky’s ability to make the Final Four obviously hinges on the Cats’ best players, but is also imperative that these three are net positives when they give the starters a breather.
Four games in a row to make the Final Four and six to win a championship takes a toll on everyone, especially the guys playing 30+ minutes a game. Making sure that the wheels don’t fall off when they get a break could be the difference in the game.
It was good to see the continued improvement of all three of these guys and while this was one of their last games in Rupp tonight, hopefully, the other two will be back next year, even if it wasn’t enough for the Cats to win.
The home three-point bug was finally put to bed
Much has been made of Kentucky’s inability to shoot at home. They have the worst home three-point percentage and best road three-point percentage in UK history. It’s a bit ridiculous.
However, they finally turned the shooting woes around tonight as they were extremely efficient from outside.
To be fair, they didn’t take a lot of threes, but they did hit the ones that they took. Sadly, it was all for not in the end.
Quickley’s off nights are better than most
It’s never good to have an off night, of course, but Immanuel Quickley’s are better than most.
He stays engaged regardless of whether or not the shots are falling. Whether it’s on defense or simply diverting the attention away from others, Quickley is an unbelievable player.
The SEC Player of the Year recorded multiple steals tonight, but he ultimately couldn’t do enough to keep the Cats from collapsing in the second half
Maxey continued his hot streak
Tyrese Maxey absolutely lit up the scoreboard tonight. And he did it in every way imaginable.
Maxey’s ability to attack the basket and score is second-to-none in the country. But tonight, he showed off his floater and his range as the Vols had no idea how to stop him.
Couple all of that with his performance from the free throw line this season and it’s easy to see why he’ll hear his name early on NBA Draft night.
Maxey can single-handedly win games for the Cats once the Dance begins. He is able to light it up on any given night, especially during big games, which is why they call him Big-Game Maxey.
The Cats dominated the majority of the game before showing some extreme flaws late in the second half. It wasn’t a good game in the last one in Rupp Arena this season.
There goes Kentucky’s hopes for a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and the end of the eight-win streak.
Let’s bounce back Saturday.