The Kentucky Wildcats struggled in just about every way imaginable early against the Florida Gators on Sunday, but battled back and stunned the home team with a 71-70 victory. The game once looked like a lost cause, but the fight that this team showed late in this one without their veteran guards was very encouraging.
Ashton Hagans did not make the trip to Florida. According to John Calipari, Hagans asked to take a few days off for personal reasons. While many in Big Blue Nation have clamored for someone else to hand the point guard responsibilities, the ways in which Kentucky missed Hagans are undeniable.
Immanuel Quickley only logged 21 minutes as he spent most of the game on the bench with foul trouble. In fact, he fouled out 11 minutes into the second half. But Nick Richards asserted himself in the second half to lead the way with 19 points on the day after scoring only two in the opening half, and many other contributed down the stretch in a win that is exactly what you want to see heading into tournament play.
While there are certainly issues that need to be fixed, both on and off the court, this team has shown time and time again a toughness that we have not seen from a Kentucky team in several years.
Nick Richards started slow, but he was a monster in the second half. He finished the game with 19 points and 7 rebounds, leading the Wildcats to a huge comeback win. Some of that may have had to do with the injury to Kerry Blackshear, Jr., but Richards was obviously more aggressive in the second half and dominated the paint to spark his team to victory. He hit the glass, made jumpers, and created space for his teammates to make plays, which they did time and time again.
I’m also going to give an honorable mention here to Johnny Juzang and Keion Brooks. Both of those guys shot well from the outside and, despite their lack of production at times, they played their hearts out. Their contributions will be vital for this team moving forward, and it helped make for a great day in Gainesville.
Highlights from the second-biggest comeback of the @UKCoachCalipari era at Kentucky ⤵️— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 8, 2020
The last time Kentucky won after trailing by 18 points or more came on Feb. 28, 2017, when the Wildcats rallied from 19 down at home against Vanderbilt (25-6, 8:03 first half). pic.twitter.com/kgAYfY1jE5