RECAP: No letdown for Cats as UK pounds EKU 91-49
On the heels of an impressive win over No. 1 Michigan State earlier this week, Kentucky returns to Rupp Arena with another strong all-around effort in blowout of neighboring Colonels.
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- It would not have been all too surprising if Kentucky had a bit of a letdown coming off the hoops high of beating No. 1 Michigan State on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
To anyone but the No. 2 Wildcats, that is.
Kentucky showed no signs of a letdown on Friday in its home opener at Rupp Arena, rolling to a 91-49 win over Eastern Kentucky. Six players scored in double figures for the Cats, who also turned in a smothering defensive effort in holding the visiting Colonels to 25% shooting on the night.
"Look, to come off what we did up there (in New York) ... and we have this kind of energy. I was really happy about it," UK head coach John Calipari said.
Junior center Nick Richards led Kentucky (2-0) with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocked shots in perhaps the best all-around performance of his college career.
"If he plays like that, Kentucky is probably going to win the national championship," EKU head coach A.W. Hamilton said of Richards.
A humble Richards added: “Right now I’m really just trying to celebrate this win with my team. It doesn’t really matter what the stat sheet says all we care about is the win.”
In addition to Richards' big night, the Cats also got a double-double from grad transfer forward Nate Sestina (12 points, 11 rebounds), 16 points from sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley, and 11 points apiece from Ashton Hagans, Kahlil Whitney, and Keio9n Brooks Jr. The latter just missed being the third double-double for UK, pulling down eight rebounds.
Freshman guard Tyrese Maxey, who scored 26 points in the opener, had nine against the Colonels.
"He's the greatest," Calipari said. "He just said, I trust you. Believe me, by the end of the year, what you saw in New York will be even another level. What you saw -- because he can make all those plays -- but this is a game where we needed to have seven guys with nine points. We needed to have that. And he accepted it. How about that?"
Eastern Kentucky (1-1) was led by former Scott County standout Michael Moreno, who scored 14 points off the bench, including four 3-pointers.
In this Cats Illustrated "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the UK victory…
Effort. We've seen talented Kentucky teams in the past kind of sleepwalk through a game like this because it wasn't a marquee opponent. The Cats approached this with a TCB mentality.
Kentucky was great at the free-throw line on Tuesday night against Michigan State, but missed 11 of their 32 attempts in this game.
The Cats threw up some bricks from beyond the arc in this one, finishing 2-for-14. They have far better shooters than that, so I wouldn't read too much into those numbers. However, they are sitting at 8-for-32 (25%) after two games.
Nick Richards, Kentucky -- The big man from Kingston, Jamaica, is off to a fantastic start to his junior season. He gave the Cats quality minutes in their win over Michigan State -- especially on the defensive end of the floor -- and looked like a star against EKU with his second career double-double. Granted, a 7-footer should fare well against the smaller OVC opponent, but Big Blue Nation has been waiting a long time for Richards to show that killer instinct on both ends of the floor. This is a great development if he can keep the momentum going.
BY THE NUMBERS:
0 - Second-chance points for EKU.
2 - Consecutive games to start the season in which the UK opponent shot in the 20s percentile for the first half.
7:03 - Time without a point for the Colonels to start the game.
13-0 - Kentucky's lead in the all-time series with EKU.
28 - Points for the Cats off 21 EKU turnovers.
+29 - Rebound advantage for UK.
+49 - Nate Sestina’s +/- for the game.
54 - Points in the paint for UK.
103-14 - Kentucky's record in home openers, including 11 straight wins.
"We started the game, and we were in shock, you know. We were just shocked. We had the shock face." -- EKU head coach A.W. Hamilton on the Cats racing to a 14-0 lead in the game's first seven minutes.
Kentucky returns to action on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena in a matchup with Evansville, coached by former Wildcat Walter McCarty. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.