By Penny Deatrick
For the seventh time in 11 seasons, UK has started 5-1 or better in league play under Coach Cal as the Wildcats completed a two-game sweep of the Georgia Bulldogs in the regular season with an 89-79 victory Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.
It was also UK's 14th straight win against Georgia in the series. In addition, the Cats have captured ninth straight win at home against the Bulldogs.
UK continues to get consistent high-level performance from Ashton Hagans, Nick Richards, and Immanuel Quickley.
Hagans led the team with 23 points and 9 assists. His 23 points tied for the second most in his career. Richards contributed with 20 points and 8 rebounds while playing 36 minutes. Quickley added 12 points, scoring the only 3-point bucket from UK.
Georgia coach Tom Crean returned to Rupp for the first time in 10 years. He opened his comments with high praise for Kentucky mentor John Calipari and his success.
“What he does with their skill level, perseverance, togetherness, toughness, and getting them to buy into one another is really extraordinary," said Crean. " I’ve respected him a long time, and I’m not just saying that because I’m friends with him, but I’m saying that because it’s mind-boggling how good a job he does with them. That team just gets better and better.”
Crean also praised Quickley. “He’s quick, he’s active, he’s agile, he moves, he can really guide, he’s got great hands, he’s got great quickness, and you add the size on that, that is a prototype big time," he said.
Quickley kept Georgia’s top player Anthony Edwards scoreless in the first half. Edwards finished with 16 points.
Coach Cal discussed his team becoming empowered and player-driven.
"They've got to be responsible to each other, they’ve got to do their role. If someone’s not happy with playing time, I’m telling them to go to Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley, talk to them. Their team," said the coach.
Coach Cal praised Richards for getting himself in great shape enabling to “do stuff you didn’t even know you can do, which builds your confidence and your self-esteem.”
Calipari added that E.J. Montgomery, who had 10 points and six rebounds, is doing extra conditioning which will not happen or show dividends overnight.
Hagans commented on how nice it was playing against his home state school. “You know it’s always good to go against my home state team," he said. "I was committed there, at one time, then came here. It’s good to have my family here to see me, watch me play, go against some of my home boys.”
Kentucky takes its 14-4 record on the road for a non-conference game, taking on Texas Tech on Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge (ESPN at 6 p.m. ET.)
Penny Deatrick is a contributing writer from Louisville.