Notes and Quotes from Kentucky’s Win Over Mississippi St

Check out our photo gallery from the game last night by clicking here.

 

KENTUCKY MEN’S BASKETBALL POSTGAME NOTES
MISSISSIPPI STATE at KENTUCKY

RUPP ARENA AT CENTRAL BANK CENTER | LEXINGTON, KY.
FEB. 4, 2020
ATTENDANCE: 20,115

 

Final Score: No. 15/16 Kentucky 80, Mississippi State 72

 

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky is 17-5 overall, 7-2 in the Southeastern Conference.
  • Mississippi State is 14-8 overall, 5-4 in the league, ending a five-game SEC win streak tonight.
  • UK leads the series 98-20 and has won 14 in a row.
    • Kentucky’s 14-game winnings streak vs. Mississippi State is tied for its best active streak vs. an SEC school. UK has also won 14 consecutive games against Georgia.
  • Next up: on Saturday, Kentucky takes on Tennessee in Knoxville at 1 p.m. That game will be televised by CBS.

 

Player Notes 

  • Nick Richards had a career-high 27 points along with 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season.
    • 25 of his 27 points came in the second half. The 25 points are the fourth most in a half by a player in the John Calipari era.
    • 13 of 15 free throws are career highs in both categories.
    • UK is 13-0 this season when he gets at least eight rebounds.
    • Kentucky is 16-1 this season when he scores in double figures and 10-0 when he grabs double-figure boards.
    • He is averaging 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds over the last 11 games.
    • Richards entered this season with one double-double in his first 74 career games.
  • Immanuel Quickley ended with 21 points, his 11th straight game in double figures.
    • He made 14 of 14 free throws, tying the school record for most free throws made in a game without a miss. Previously, Louie Dampier (Dec. 22, 1966 vs. Oregon State), Ramel Bradley (Nov. 7, 2007 vs. Gardner-Webb) and Jodie Meeks (Jan. 13, 2009 at Tennessee) also hit 14 without a miss.
    • He’s averaging 17.8 points over the last 11 games.
    • His 11-game double-figure scoring streak is the longest since PJ Washington did it in 12 straight games last season.
  • EJ Montgomery finished with 12 points, his most since his career-high 25 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson on Dec. 7.
    • UK is 4-0 this season when he scores in double figures.
    • He also added eight rebounds and tied his career high for steals with three.
  • Tyrese Maxey scored eight points and had five assists. UK is 6-0 this season when he has at least four assists.

Coach John Calipari

  • Calipari is now 322-76 at UK.
  • He has a 767-216 all-time on-court record.
  • UK is 260-43 against unranked foes under Calipari.
  • Kentucy is 54-13 under Calipari in “bounce back” games following losses (does not count end-of-season losses).
  • UK is 143-40 under Calipari in SEC regular-season games.
  • Calipari is now 15-0 all-time vs. Mississippi State.

Team Notes

  • Kentucky has won 12 straight home games and is 13-1 in Rupp Arena this season.
  • Mississippi State won the rebounding 40-37 and dominated second-chance points, 22-4.
    • It was Kentucky’s first victory in five games this season when being outrebounded.
  • Kentucky limited Mississippi State to 36.8% from the field.
    • UK is 198-19 (.912) under Calipari when keeping the opponent at 40 percent or less, including 11-3 this season.
  • Entering the game at 77.7% at the foul line, the Wildcats had another solid performance at 86.1% (31 of 35). It is UK’s fourth straight game shooting 80% or better.
  • Kentucky led by as many as 14 points during the game. UK is 277-7 under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points during the game.
  • Statistical oddity: With the Wildcats making only one 3-pointer tonight, UK improved to a 10-1 record under Calipari when making one or fewer 3-pointers.
  • It’s the second straight game that UK had two players score at least 20 points. Quickley and Maxey scored 20-plus each at Auburn.

In the First Half

  • The starting lineup consisted of Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards for the eighth time this season. The Wildcats are 6-2 with the lineup.
    • Keion Brooks Jr. was UK’s first substitute at the 14:31 mark.
  • Kentucky held Mississippi State scoreless on the first four possessions while building a 7-0 lead.
  • State rallied to tie at 9 but Quickley broke the deadlock with a step-back 3-pointer.
  • UK eventually stretched the lead to 31-21, its largest of the half, before going to intermission up 31-23.
    • It is the fewest points allowed in the first half since limiting Fairleigh Dickinson to 23 on Dec. 7.
    • UK is now 15-2 this season when leading at halftime.

In the Second Half

  • Kentucky began the second half with the opening lineup.
  • UK improved the lead to 13 points at 38-25 and later 14 points at 50-36.
  • State cut the lead to six at 60-54 with 4:36 remaining, but a dunk and jumper by Richards rebuffed the rally.
  • The lead was again six, 64-58, but in the last 2:21 the Wildcats made 16 of 16 free throws – six by Richards, two by Hagans and the last eight by Quickley – to keep the visitors at bay.

Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari

 

  1. Early on it seemed like by having your guys push it on a defensive rebound, it sort of made them maybe not send as many guys to the offensive glass, but also, kind of got you guys started?

 

JOHN CALIPARI: It’s how we want to play. I just got a great text from a buddy of mine, “If Ash (Ashton Hagans) doesn’t get in foul trouble and Nate (Sestina) is right, you guys are fine, and when EJ (Montgomery) plays the way he plays, you’ve got a chance.” We’re still not quite there. We’ve got to get a couple more guys playing better, and basically, what EJ did is what my vision for him is. Notice he didn’t take many jump shots, and the one’s he did… anybody watch the game? He missed. But everything else was at the rim, at the rim, at the rim. He squared up and drove the ball. And what’s all we’ve been trying to get him to do. Play through bumps. Want to get hit. Go in once. How about that one where the guy grabbed his arm and he still made it? How about that block down the other end. EJ was ridiculous. That’s who, that’s my vision of him. That’s what I think he is. Now, why do you think he was able to do that? What have we been doing with him? Conditioning. They don’t like it. It hurts. It’s hard. It’s hard. The conditioning is starting to pay off. Now he’s got to step on the gas and even go farther.

 

  1. When Nick (Richards) and EJ have huge games, they are not huge physical specimens, how do they counteract going against somebody that chronic?

 

JOHN CALIPARI: They have got to hit first. They have got to want contact. They have got to play lower than the other guy. They can outrun people, which means they can react quicker to what’s happening, which is what Kyle (Tucker) said. They outrun the big; now you are in control of what’s about to happen. If he’s outrunning you because you’re not in really great shape and you let go of the rope; you’re tired, after three runs, you’re behind everything, and now you look like you’re getting thrown around. Both Nick and EJ are becoming conditioned big athletes. We just got to take that to another level. What I’m happy, and again, those last eight or ten fouls that they fouled purposely, but we made free throws. That’s big. We went up and knocked free throws. Nick made his. Immanuel (Quickley) made his. Ashton made his. You know, when a team is trying to foul you, you’ve got to be able to say, you’re not winning this way, we’ll make these, and that was big for us.

 

  1. Did Nate get his shoulder popped out and come back in?

JOHN CALIPARI: I didn’t ask him.

 

  1. Do you know any status going forward for him?

JOHN CALIPARI: I just said, “Can you play?” and he said, “Yes.” All right. Go in.

 

  1. Given the way Mississippi State plays, how much did you challenge Nick and EJ to respond physically after what happened?

JOHN CALIPARI: We did drills for two days, the same drills we did before Auburn (laughter) for two days, but you must be lower than they are. If you’re establishing straight up-and-down, or as Kyle would say, erect, you are going to get knocked around. That’s just what’s going to happen. Bend down, get low.

 

  1. Playing low and being in great condition, is that harder for big men?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yes.

 

  1. How much harder?

JOHN CALIPARI: It’s kind of like lifting. So, when they are your size, lifting, they lift like that… okay. And when you’re their size and you have to list, you’ve got long muscles… Darrell Bird, little short muscles (laughter). Long muscles, and it’s the same, the longs, big guys develop later. Like EJ, it’s taken him a little time. So what? What is the issue? It’s taken him longer. I had a guy hit me today and say it’s the first time I saw EJ smile on court because he’s in shape. You know what you look like when you’re out of shape? You’re not smiling. You’re looking like you’re… he’s now out there alert and focused and ready, and when he needs a break, he says, “Give me a minute.” And I tell him, “Go back in when you want to go back in,” and we’ll wake up and go in. That’s what he is. He is a premiere player, one of the best players in the country. He’s just not done it yet, but tonight was that first step. Now build on it. Now you’re going up. You’re playing at Tennessee. Hard place to play. They just won tonight on the road. Rick’s got his guys playing better and better and they are physical. They are physical.

 

  1. How about EJ’s defense on (Reggie) Perry.

JOHN CALIPARI: Good.

 

  1. How well do you think he played that?

JOHN CALIPARI: He did good. There was a couple times that he played behind him but I thought what our guards did and how we played Perry was pretty effective, and we had spent two days, we started one way and the staff talked me out of it and I’m glad they did. Then we went another way and I was fearful because we’re small, and if you trap with both bigs, that means you’ve got three little guys around the rim if he decides to shoot it and miss it. So we did some different things. We did that, and the guys, they did a good job. You see how important Ashton is to this team, do you see his energy to start the game? This team, we can’t afford him getting in foul trouble and I keep saying, “You cannot reach. Don’t. It’s not worth it.” It’s not worth the one steal when you go five times and two of them are fouls. It’s just not worth it. So thought he did a better job today.

 

  1. The technical, deserved or not deserved?

JOHN CALIPARI: Oh, yeah, my thing is real simple. If an official, this is just my belief, I may be wrong in this, but if you miss a call and don’t make a call, it don’t matter what the coach does. Take it. Take it. And so, you know, in that case, I did enough to deserve it. But I’m just… we’ve had a couple games now, I’m getting kind of up to here now, and so I’ve got to stand up for these kids. I can’t let stuff happen, or it’s okay to… I’m not going to let that happen. Now, this crew tonight did a good job on this game I thought. I mean, if they called a foul down here, they called a foul down here. You can’t take the last ten fouls they fouled us on purpose. You have to eliminate those. But you know, it was a physical game. They were physical. And guess what? We were physical.

 

  1. You’ve always been a pretty vocal proponent of the extra pass. Saw a pretty obvious one between Tyrese (Maxey) and Ashton in the second half and ended the night with 14 assists. Happy with those efforts?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, we’re getting better. I mean, I thought Immanuel took some shots, like step backs. Just take a two. It’s not how we play, anyway. And I thought he took one where the ball bounced out and we had another clock, he took one quick. But he’s playing so well, and playing with so much energy, and you know, you let him play through. But again, Keion’s (Brooks Jr.) vital for this team. Johnny (Juzang) is vital for this team. Nate is vital for this team. Dontaie (Allen) met with me. We are going to give him a little time to condition. I may start playing Dontaie. Came in and said… you know, he went through a workout like with our team, like doing individuals, and I had never seen him go that hard, like ever. I went, “That’s who you are now? Are you ready to go?” But what I don’t want to do is use his year if I don’t intend to play him. I’m not going to play him 30 seconds or a minute and use his year up. I won’t do that to the kid. But we are down to two and the rent is due. We could use one more guy.

 

#1 Nate Sestina, F, Gr.

On his shoulder injury…

“That’s what I hurt my freshman year, that’s why I’m here. I took my redshirt. So, it kind of slipped a little bit, it felt a little goofy. Kind of brought back some bad memories, it scared me more than anything. I’ll just ice it, rehab it.”

 

On how he was able to bounce back and continue playing…

“Like I said I think it just scared me more than anything. It’s just really sore, it’s not like anything is hurt. I’m not in any pain. Then I had Cal say, ‘if you’re ready to play then play,’ so I was just trying to carry some momentum and carry things, move forward and try to get a win.”

 

On Nick Richards…

“I say it all the time, that dude is unreal. He is in great shape. He can grab rebounds, block shots, he does big things for us. He gets hands in passing lanes and all that stuff. It’s just all starting to pay off for him and it’s awesome to see because he deserves it. That dude is always in the gym, he is always working out. It’s big time for him, and it’s big time for us too.”

 

On trusting the process…

“Oh yeah, it’s great to see and it’s great to see everyone start to click. For me, it’s just seeing two quick bunnies go in felt good. And you always want to try to play better on defense than you do on offense and I always try to have that effort. And if you see two quick go in, it makes everything better. You’re feeling good and you’re energetic, but like, if you miss those you can’t let that affect how you play.”

 

#23 EJ Montgomery, F, So.

On your performance tonight…

“On the defensive end I tried to bring it and bring the energy and just go for every rebound.”

 

On your conditioning…

“It’s not been a major issue, but I just wasn’t in my tip top shape, so trying to just get ready every day and go out there and compete.”

 

On going up against a guy like Reggie Perry…

“It feels good. Just my competitive edge, just trying to go out there and compete and just try to get going.”

 

On trying to raise your game to Nick Richards level…

“It’s a lot of motivation. Nick is playing really good right now and I’m just trying to keep up with him.”

 

#4 Nick Richards, F, Jr.

On tonight making up for last game against Auburn…

“We’re just trying to move on from that to be honest. We don’t even want to talk about that game anymore. We learned from the mistakes in that game, we watched the film. Now we just, as the coaches say, it’s history. We’re just trying to move forward to the next game. We learned from the mistakes, we got better from it in practice. The coaches, they know how to emphasize what we need to do, and we’re just going to move on from it.”

 

On what changed in terms of scoring in the second half…

“I’ve got great point guards. That’s it. Finding me in the right position to take open jump shots, quick lobs, quick post-ups, finding ways to get easy hooks off. As I said, I’ve got great point guards.”

 

On defending against Mississippi State…

“It was a personal challenge for all of us to slow the team down. I don’t know who it was, but one guard had like twelve points in the first half. We just came into halftime,and we just focused on what we talked about during practice, and we changed up our strategy a little bit, and we just came out with a W.”

Mississippi State Head Coach Ben Howland

On how EJ Montgomery looked tonight versus what he has seen in the past …

“I think he really played well. Obviously (Nick) Richards was phenomenal. Their front line between two of them I think they had 39 points. They really were outstanding and they’re both really good players. I mean, Richards is really one of the dominant bigs in all of college basketball with the way he shoots the ball, his foul shooting was tremendous. I thought they did a good job tonight protecting the paint. They’re good. This is a very, very good Kentucky team. Their guard play is outstanding, they don’t turn it over. Neither team shot a ball well from three, they’re one for 10 and we’re five for 16. I credit their defense because their defense got their offense going by 25 points in transition. I think we can play so much better than we did today and yet it’s a six-point game with 2:34 to go and we make an ill-advised foul and put, I forget who went to the line, it might’ve been Montgomery, and the second one, he misses them both and they get the rebound on a missed free throw which is like the kiss of death but give them credit. They’re tough, they’re well-coached, and we knew we’d get their best shot coming off a tough loss at Auburn.”

 

On their defense against Reggie Perry and how big of an obstacle it is when he doesn’t have a double-double …

“Reggie has been playing so good and he was bound to have a bad night. I think he got a little sped up because he had a couple bunnies that he missed, and he’s got to make those. He’s a great player and he’ll bounce back from this. He still ends up with 14 and eight. Our transition defense, we end up wanting to balance second-chance points 24 and four, we did some fouls and things tonight and we just had a hard time scoring and especially scoring around the basket which is something we’ve been very good at. We’ve got to bounce back from this and be ready to go here because we’re halfway through the league and we’ve got nine games left, five on the road and four at home, and every one is honestly critical. We’re trying to find a way to the NCAA tournament, and this was a great opportunity to help that. That didn’t happen but it didn’t hurt us that much because we’re playing against a great team on their home floor which is going to be a really tough out in the NCAA tournament against anybody that’s got to match up.”

 

Mississippi State Student-Athlete

 

#12 Robert Woodard II, G

 

On handling Kentucky on the glass…

“First, I would like to thank God for this opportunity. We knew coming into this game that they would be strong on the boards. Getting beat by Auburn on the boards was something different for them, so we knew they would hone in on that during the week. So, that was something we were pretty prepared for.”

 

On Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery…

“They are very big guys down low, very physical, hard to guard in ball-screen situations. It is all about the rotations. But, other than that, they are great players down low.”

 

On EJ Montgomery being a surprise tonight…

“For the game of basketball, you just never know whose night it is going to be. Even though Richards had 27 tonight, EJ played a big factor in that. He was active around the rim, made a couple shots, has a great post move and great post work. You just never know whose night it is going to be and he contributed well to the game tonight.”

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