By Jamie H. Vaught
LEXINGTON – Kentucky’s 82-62 win over Mount St. Mary’s on Friday night was much prettier than the last two games when the Wildcats struggled against Evansville and Utah Valley.
The ninth-ranked Wildcats, who saw previously injured players EJ Montgomery and Immanuel Quickley back in action, were in control for the most of the contest, especially in the second half, as they hit nearly 55 percent of their field goals while limiting the Mountaineers to 36.1 percent shooting.
Leading UK’s balanced scoring attack was 6-11 junior Nick Richards, who had a game-high 19 points to go along with six rebounds and blocking three shots in 32 minutes. Joining Richards were three Wildcat guards in double figures – Ashton Hagans (16 points), Immanuel Quickley (13) and Tyrese Maxey (11).
Hagans also had game-highs seven rebounds and seven assists while Quickley poured in three of four three-pointers.
"I think Ashton still is a little bit undisciplined both offensively and defensively," said Kentucky coach John Calipari. "He's got to tighten it up." Kentucky, who leads the SEC in free throw shooting percentage, were nearly flawless from the charity stripe again, hitting 16 of 18 free throws. Hagans was 6 for 6 from the line, while Richards was 5 for 6.
Freshman Kahlil Whitney, who added 9 points, said the Wildcats "made great strides defensively, just knowing their personnel and trying to stop what they threw at us. Fighting over ball screens, being help-side and talking, I feel like communication is a big key for us and we want to really be special and communicate more. It’s a process and we will get there.”
One area the Wildcats lacked against the Mountaineers was offensive rebounding. Calipari said the team needs to work on that aspect of rebounding.
"Again, we only get six offensive rebounds. C'mon. It's not like we made every shot. We shot over 50 percent, but there's still 25 rebounds and you get six. That's not acceptable. It's just not," commented Calipari.
The Wildcats, who improve to 4-1, face Lamar Sunday evening. The matchup will tip off at 6 p.m. and will be televised by SEC Network.