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Kentucky Basketball: Player takeaways From a Disaster vs. Tennessee

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A promising start until the second-half meltdown.

Jeremy Chisenhall - Sea of Blue

Tuesday was a tough one for the Kentucky Wildcats, as they blew a 17-point lead to get manhandled at home by Tennessee.

Kentucky just let Tennessee demolish them in the second half. And save your complaints about Ashton’s shouting spats with Nick, we could have used three or four other dudes playing with his fire. This was just a bad game. On to the takeaways:

Tyrese Maxey

Maxey was phenomenal in the first half. He splashed a pair of threes, whizzed by Tennessee defenders and was decidedly the best player on the floor. When prowling for his shot, Ty is a Final Four MOP level of playmaker and scorer. My longstanding theory is that our offense would’ve been much better had Calipari force-fed Maxey early in the year. Force that kid to take the most shots every game, he’s worth it. No one can stay in front of him, his floater game is 99th percentile and if he can elevate for pull-up threes whenever he chooses—although he needs to actually make some.

Ashton Hagans

When we lost the lead, when the contest officially entered treacherous, losing waters, Hagans exploded through a pair of defenders for a layup and heel-turned and poked a hand out on the ensuing inbound pass for a steal and foul on the shot. Five minutes later, when we remained down a few points and the effort level hadn’t visibly changed, Hagans pulled a Kobe. He started getting furious at his teammates for not playing at a 10 effort level. “Why aren’t you playing as hard as me!” I hope he shouted fierce enough to scare even Lynn Bowden a few rows from the bench. We can talk about the turnovers with him, but they aren’t going away. Neither is his leadership and fight. He’s the only one I’m not going to scold today.

Immanuel Quickley

5/16 from the field and 2/5 from three. Alright night for Immanuel, but he needs to be more aggressive down the stretch when we’re teetering on the brink of a lost lead. He’s generally a reliable contributor (not that I needed to tell you that) but just faded when the clock shrunk. Dude, it’s you and Tyrese at this point in the season. Without question, you all are our best scorers, and by a wide margin individually.

Nate Sestina

The senior played his tail off, as per usual, highlighted by me crying as he hugged his parents during the Senior Day Ceremony and his surprising putback dunk midway through the first half. As the games wear on here in SEC play, don’t call me a lunatic, but Nate is holding up lately, capped by a 11-point three-three-pointer outburst in Baton Rogue a few Tuesdays ago. Love to see some good minutes from him over the next month.

Nick Richards

I think he wound up with a double-double but I frankly do not care. A scrawny 6-9 forward with Topher Grace’s hair and a shoestring wrapped around his head completely emasculated Nick Richards. Pick ON Nick, there’s a hashtag.

EJ Montgomery

He was fine. Could have helped slow down the Fulkerson whirlwind, but like Nate, he’s been consistent lately, and when Nick’s out nowadays, it’s barely a downgrade if at all. Don’t you dare take that as a Nick Richards slight, because it is not.

Keion Brooks

Brooks can shimmy in the post, jump a lot higher than most people his size and he chases rebounds. With Nate and EJ emerging with varying skill sets as reliable forward options, Brooks has kind of had his season shelved. It’s alright and I’m excited for the future.

Johnny Juzang

Johnny nailed two threes but again was discarded as an option during the final four minutes. Not his fault. Our three best and most important players are a collective 6-foot-3 brigade that passes, scores and defends elitely.