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KSR's Best and Worst of the Win over Eastern Kentucky

It was a fun night at Rupp Arena as Kentucky cruised to a 91-49 win over Eastern Kentucky. Here are the best and worst moments, according to the KSR staff.

Best: The Nick Richards Fan Club is full of new applicants

You won’t find anyone saying a bad word about Nick Richards after his 21-point, 10-rebound double-double, with a plus-35, tonight. It took two years, but Richards finally looks comfortable on the basketball court and not overthinking things; and when that happens, his size and athleticism are too much for just about anyone.

He caught and finished lobs, he ran the floor, he blocked shots (four times), he altered more shots, he was efficient from the field, that hook shot was gorgeous, and dammit he just looked so good.

If Richards can put up similar numbers on a consistent basis, I’ll see y’all at the Final Four.

— Drew Franklin

Worst: Three-point and free-throw shooting

Three-point shooting was an issue that popped up in the exhibition against Kentucky State and again in the win over Michigan State (combined to shoot 12-40 in those two games from long range) and it reared its ugly head in Friday night’s blowout win.

Kentucky shot just 2-14 from deep and coupled that with 11 missed free-throws against EKU.

Obviously, the strength for this Wildcats squad is the defense and backcourt trio, but a lack of outside shooting will eventually catch up to them. Johnny Juzang and Tyrese Maxey both shot 0-2 from deep while Ashton Hagans and Nate Sestina went 2-6, making the only shots from deep.

The poor free-throw shooting was more so due to Brooks’ five misses, considering Quickley and Maxey combined for a perfect 12-12. Sestina also shot 5-7 from the charity stripe. But the open misses from three aren’t going to cut it once SEC play starts.

I’m not even going to reference that Classic Cal euphemism…

— Zack Geoghegan

Best: Keion Brooks’ breakout game

The talk of the night will be “Junior” Nick Richards and his spectacular double-double, but tucked underneath that hype is Keion Brooks breakout performance.

Fueled by 11 points and eight rebounds, Brooks showed a ton of the potential that has made him such a tantalizing player ever since he stepped on campus. He was soaring in for dunks, knocking down some mid-range jumpers, and just being an overall freak athlete.

Brooks did miss five of his six free-throw attempts (more on that in a second) and didn’t attempt a three, but he was playing within himself and his game. There was one putback dunk where he literally knocked himself to the ground with the amount of force he unleashed.

I think it’s still going to be a while before we figure out just exactly how good Brooks is, but we all got an optimistic glimpse against an outmatched EKU team. His jump shot might be a bit shakey, but if he’s attacking the glass and pounding down dunks, he’ll fit in perfectly with what the team needs from him.

— Zack Geoghegan

WORST (according to John Calipari): The smell at Rupp Arena

I wasn’t at Rupp tonight, but according to John Calipari, it smelled. Calipari stopped his postgame press conference to complain about the sounds and smells at Rupp.

“Who’s doing that? Squeaking?”

The printer printing out stats, John.

“Do you know what smelled in this place today? Did you guys — It smelled in the locker room. It smelled in everything. It was in our locker room. How did it get in there? It’s self-contained. You got squirrels up in there, something. I don’t know what it is.”

Smeller’s the feller, John.

— Tyler Thompson

BEST: Defense was ridiculous… again

For the first seven minutes and three seconds of the game, Kentucky didn’t allow a single point. At halftime, the Wildcats led by 21, and John Calipari was still somehow furious going into the locker room. They ended winning the game 91-49, an absurd 42-point deficit.

Are you kidding me?

After holding top-ranked Michigan State to just 62 points on 39% shooting and 19% from three, the worry of a potential letdown performance against EKU was there.

Instead, Kentucky held the Colonels to just 49 points on 25% shooting and 24.2% from three. Individually, the Wildcats forced 21 turnovers, managed eight steals, and blocked six shots. Nick Richards had four blocks on his own, while Ashton Hagans finished with three steals.

John Calipari said this week that this team is the most advanced defensively at this stage since he’s been at Kentucky.

Needless to say, they’re proving that.

— Jack Pilgrim

Best: UK quarterback recruit Joey Gatewood attended the game

The Auburn transfer, a former top-50 recruit, sat a couple rows off the court with Vince Marrow and Terry Wilson, and really seemed to be enjoying the game and Big Blue Nation.

Wilson shared this photo after the game:

https://twitter.com/TerryTouchdown3/status/1192976014193954816

This is a huge story to watch on the football side of things. Gatewood is a major dual-threat talent with real interest in making UK his next home.

— Drew Franklin

WORST: Quite the recruiting mix-up…

As the game got rolling, I got a few texts and direct messages asking if a surprise five-star basketball recruit had made it onto campus for a visit. That prospect in question? 2020 top-ten center Makur Maker.

Usually when a big-name prospect visits, word leaks well before the weekend from individuals close to the program, family members, high school coaches, and AAU coaches. A guy like Maker would’ve certainly fit in this category.

After seeing a few news outlets and recruiting accounts tweet out that Maker was on an unofficial visit to Kentucky, along with the fact that at least two recruits were noticeably behind the UK bench, I walked down to the Rupp Arena floor to take a closer look.

After a brief investigation, neither of the individuals in question were Maker. Instead, it was 2022 7-foot-3 center Bol Kuir and 2022 6-foot-10 forward Gabriel Beny.

Extremely promising prospects for the future, but not top-ten senior Makur Maker.

Missed it by that much.

— Jack Pilgrim

BEST: The Tom Hart and Andy Kennedy Show

I was already a fan of the SEC Network announcing duo of Tom Hart and Andy Kennedy, but after tonight, I’m ready to petition for them to call all of Kentucky’s games. Tom Hart has long been a KSR favorite for dropping references to the show in his broadcasts, which mostly bewilders his sidekicks, but tonight, Andy Kennedy got in on the fun. The former Ole Miss coach dropped a “Free Matt Jones” at the start of the second half, drawing a chuckle from Hart:

Later in the second half, Kennedy did it again, prompting Hart to quip, “I love that you don’t even know what that means but you’re willing to participate.” Same.

The KSR references weren’t the only great thing about Hart and Kennedy tonight. With a blowout underway, Kennedy sang Men at Work’s “Down Under” in honor of EKU’s Lachlan Anderson, an Australia native; snitched on Sean Farnham for not returning his rental car to the Bluegrass Airport; lamented about his golf game; and pined for a postgame glass of Maker’s Mark. The SEC Network non-conference games are usually a snooze-fest, but tonight, it was Tom and Andy’s comedy hour, and I’m all the way here for it.

— Tyler Thompson

Worst: I bet the Over (148 total points) and lost because, you know, UK’s defense is awesome

Knowing EKU’s style of play and the guards they were doing it against, I thought for sure we’d cash a ticket on the over. Then I remembered EKU has to score too, and as we saw in the first seven minutes, scoring on Kentucky’s defense is not easy.

(Note: This is actually another Best because UK’s defense looks amazing but I spun in to add another Worst.)

— Drew Franklin

BEST: Kahlil Whitney’s Dragon Shoes

Khaleesi would be proud.

— Tyler Thompson

WORST: Waiting until Tuesday to see this team play again

Real talk: I usually hate these early conference home games. More often than not, Kentucky seems disinterested and lets their opponent have their moment on the Rupp Arena floor, leading to an angsty two hours where we end up winning by 15-20 but don’t learn much. That may still end up being the case, but the more I watch this group, the more I think it won’t be. Between the smothering defense, the mismatches (holy Keion Brooks and Kahlil Whitney), and Hart and Kennedy’s call, tonight was really fun and I’m sad I have to wait until Tuesday to watch them play again.

Now, let’s beat Tennessee.

— Tyler Thompson

https://www.facebook.com/kysportsradio/posts/2819490504751011

 

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2022-09-25