It wasn’t just an outstanding junior-year rise for Nick Richards that took a bulk of the headlines surround this year’s Kentucky team.
Sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley took it upon himself to become the go-to guy for the Cats in the latter part of the season and became one of the country’s best players, helping lead Kentucky to a 25-6 mark, the SEC regular season title and winning SEC Player of the Year in the coaches vote.
Quickley was nothing short of a rock for the Cats in the final 20 games of the season, averaging 18.6 points per game on 39 percent shooting from long range while making 92 percent of his free throws. In that same stretch, he scored 20+ points seven times, including a career-high 30 points in a win over Texas A&M on Feb. 25.
After being somewhat of an afterthought in the early portion of the season, Quickley became one of Kentucky’s most important players. Not only was he crucial in Kentucky being one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the nation (which isn’t something we’ve said about John Calipari-coached teams before), it felt like on most days, whenever Kentucky needed points in a tight spot, if it wasn’t Nick, it was Quick getting the job done.
To continue our series of fun moments from the 2019-20 season, here’s a rundown of some excellent Quickley moments, starting with a trio of daggers from Havre de Grace, Maryland native.
You get a dagger, and you get a dagger, and YOU get a dagger
To say that Quickley hit some big shots throughout this past season for Kentucky would be a complete understatement and honestly, it’s hard to pick just one of them for the list.
So in that case, since there’s four featured moments for each list, I took the liberty of featuring four of Quickley’s biggest shots of the season, starting on Jan. 11 with the Cats hanging on to a 71-67 advantage with a minute to play against Alabama.
Quickley set his then-career-high of 19 points in 76-67 victory for Big Blue by shooting 5-of-6 from 3-point territory, including this dagger from the right corner off a quick baseline out of bounds set handoff from Nick Richards. The make gave Kentucky a 74-67 lead and seemingly ended all hope of a Crimson Tide comeback right there.
Skipping ahead to Feb. 13 in a rather strange 78-64 win for Kentucky that saw them score just 27 points in the opening 20 minutes of the game, Tyrese Maxey shouldered the offensive load for the Cats for much of the contest, but it was Quickley that sent the Big Blue Nation that traveled down to Nashville home happy and content with their Wildcats.
Leading by five with 3:54 left, Kentucky went back to the same actions that helped them fend off a big Vanderbilt upset in the first meeting on Jan. 29 at Rupp Arena and Quickley hit not one, but two huge shots to keep the Commodores at bay for good in the final four minutes of the contest.
The second was contested better by Vandy’s defense, but Quickley cans this one, too. (Jimmy Dykes even calls out the similar action in the set.) pic.twitter.com/cYGBT6KlRv— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) February 13, 2020
Quickley missed eight of his 12 shot attempts, but made all seven free throws he attempted and three of the four triples he shot for an 18-point night in the win.
Rewinding just a few days to Feb. 8 and Kentucky’s trip to Knoxville to face rival Tennessee, Quickley followed up a 21-point night against Mississippi State earlier in the week with another 18-point performance that included him hitting a left-wing back-breaker for 3 to give Kentucky a 71-61 lead with 90 seconds to play.
Quickley from half-court ... good!
In one of the wildest games that the Cats played in all season, every point mattered in Kentucky’s 76-74 overtime win over Texas Tech on Jan. 25, including a half-court heave from Quickley that gave the Cats a 36-34 halftime lead in one the best and most memorable plays of the season for Big Blue.
Immanuel Quickley at the buzzer pic.twitter.com/tWqod4ce9n— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 26, 2020
Quickley played 42 of the 45 total minutes for Kentucky in the victory, scoring 21 points, shooting 4-of-8 from 3-point land with six rebounds.
It’s not The Tayshaun Prince Game, but Quickley sure tried to make it a sequel
Every Kentucky fan that watched the game probably remembers where they were for The Tayshaun Prince Game back on Dec. 8, 2001 against North Carolina when the former Wildcat great drained five consecutive 3-pointers to start the game for Kentucky inside of the game’s first four minutes in a 79-59 rout of the Tar Heels on his way to an incredible 31-point performance.
Immanuel Quickley didn’t quite mimic that entirely on Feb. 22 against Florida at Rupp, but how about 22 of his 26 points in the 65-59 Kentucky victory coming in the second half, including a stretch of the game where Quickley scored 12 straight Kentucky points in just 3:54 of game time?
22 points in the second half!— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 23, 2020
That escalated ... Quickley pic.twitter.com/xYXzlmBgw3
In that stretch, Quickley hit three consecutive triples, including one drifting right at the top of the key that put Kentucky up six and sent Rupp into a complete frenzy.
Three days after this, Quickley would set his final career high of 30 points, but during this game, he set his career mark with 26 points on 8-of-17 shooting, including hitting four of the six 3-pointers he attempted.
Immanuel Quick-Three ... eight of them to be specific
37 minutes of game time, 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting, 8-of-12 from 3-point range, 6-of-6 from the line, five rebounds, two assists and a win.
That was Immanuel Quickley’s night in a 69-60 Kentucky victory on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M. Quickley’s 30 points marked the first time since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 30-point performance against Vanderbilt on Jan. 30, 2018 that a Kentucky player reached the 30-point plateau in a game.
This performance all but locked up at least one of the two SEC Player of the Year awards for him and a spot on the All-SEC First Team.