“I’m like that,” Tyrese Maxey exclaimed to his teammates and to the world after hitting a 30-foot bomb with the word “HERE” underneath his pair of Nikes at Madison Square Garden to put Kentucky up 65-60 with a minute to play in the Cats’ opening-night win over then-No. 1 Michigan State back in November.
Maxey’s 26-point performance wouldn’t be the last time he would put on a dazzling display in front of the country in a big-time spot for Kentucky this season. Some people throughout the social media landscape (including myself) adopted the #BigGameMaxey hashtag because, well, in virtually every “big game” this season for Kentucky, Maxey showed up a huge way for the Cats.
In 31 games, Maxey scored 10+ points in 22 of them, including six games of 20+ points and a stretch of eight straight double-digit scoring games from Feb. 8 to Mar. 3. He may not have told the world he was a bucket like Tyler Herro did a year ago, but buckets were aplenty with Maxey on the floor.
We’ve already taken a dive into some fun moments from Ashton Hagans and EJ Montgomery, but today, it’s Maxey’s turn, starting when the ‘Cats Went Down to Georgia and proceeded to turn the Dawgs into a meme.
Maxey passes his first real road test with flying colors
In Kentucky’s first road game of the season (which also happened to be their first road game of the SEC calendar), Kentucky traveled to Athens to face potential No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards, old rival coach Tom Crean and Georgia.
The ‘Cats struggled in the opening 20 minutes, trailing by six points heading into the break, which apparently meant to the Bulldogs that the game was over. The amount of trash talk and jersey popping was ... shall we say, a bit much for a team for a whole half to play still.
As you’d expect, Kentucky responded with a 46-point second half and won 78-69 thanks to a wonderful Maxey performance. The freshman scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out a season-high eight assists, blocked four shots (!) with a steal.
There’s an old expression from comedian Katt Williams that’s as old as time:
Memorial Gym brought a memorable night for Maxey
Many members across the Big Blue Nation know that Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium is not exactly a normal place to play a basketball game, no matter how great or awful the Commodores are in a given season.
The building provides one of the weirdest setups in all of college basketball with the benches on the opposite baselines and when your team is playing in the opposite direction of where your coaching staff’s bench is, it can be a difficult day at the office and for a half, it looked like it was going to be a disappointing night for Big Blue at Memorial Gym.
Despite trailing by nine at the break and scoring just 27 points in the first 20 minutes, Kentucky exploded out of the break, scoring 51 points in a rather comfortable 78-64 result for the second of what would become an eight-game winning streak late in the season.
Maxey basically kept the Cats afloat by himself in the first half on his way to a 25-point night on 10-of-17 shooting from the field in the victory with a pair of steals and a pair of blocks.
This was a great find from Hagans, but I kinda laughed as to how Vandy just let the game’s leading scorer slip behind their whole defense in transition. pic.twitter.com/oVTbcHHB0y— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) February 12, 2020
A Maximum effort in arguably the most exciting game of the season
If you play big in what usually is the biggest game of the season, whether it’s for Kentucky for Louisville, you more than likely will become a hero in the eyes of the specific fan bases.
This past December, Tyrese Maxey (along with Nick Richards, but we’ll get to him a little later on in this series) did just that, scoring a career-high 27 points with seven rebounds in a thrilling 78-70 victory for the Cats, giving John Calipari his 10th win over the Cardinals in 12 matchups as Kentucky’s head coach.
Every time it felt like Kentucky needed a bucket with the Cards pushing back in the contest, Maxey delivered every time. He was excellent all day long, winning the battle of the Bluegrass’s player of the game honor and cementing himself into the rivalry’s history forever.
If you get John Wall out of his seat with excitement, you are in fact, like *that*
Of course we’ll close this one.
(Here’s a funny note about this game: Maxey played 32 minutes off the bench. Imaging thinking back to November if Kentucky went on a deep tournament run and remember Tyrese Maxey started the 2019-20 season coming off the bench.)
Let’s set the scene first, though.
Kentucky is hanging on by a thread inside the final 90 seconds of their opening-night No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup against Michigan State at Madison Square Garden in the 2019 State Farm Champions Classic.
The Spartans have locked them down in the half-court just outside of a minute to play, but the ball’s in Maxey’s hands. He’s been the best player on the floor all night.
He stops right on the word “HERE” of the phrase “THE SEASON STARTS HERE” of the Champions Classic graphic, rises, fires, and ... bang.
Kentucky leads 65-60 with 59.9 left and the folks in all blue are going bananas.
That’ll do it.
Believe it or not, Maxey didn’t start his first college game. John Calipari rolled with a starting five of Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Kahlil Whitney, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards.
After his first stint on the floor, it was clear that Maxey’s night wouldn’t end on the bench. The freshman from Dallas, Texas was nothing short of sensational in Kentucky’s 69-62 victory over the Spartans to open the campaign, scoring a game-high 26 points with five rebounds and a steal.
We’ve more than likely seen Maxey play his final game in a Kentucky uniform, but in terms of exciting players in the John Calipari era, not many have been as electric as the former Texas Mr. Basketball when he got going.