John Calipari’s 2019-20 Kentucky Wildcats played their first exhibition game on Sunday afternoon in Rupp Arena. Their opponent was defending NAIA Champion Georgetown College. Obviously, the Cats were heavy favorites, but it was the first time this group had played against anyone other than themselves and after an uneven performance in the Blue-White game, anything was possible.
Kentucky, however, started the game about as well as anyone could have hoped. Led by Immanuel Quickley’s hot hand from long-range, the Cats jumped out to an 11-0 lead before the Tigers called a timeout. Eventually, that lead would swell to 27 points (40-13) with just under 3 minutes to go in the half. Georgetown went on a small run to close the half and narrowed the gap to 15 points (40-25), but Nate Sestina drained a 3-pointer just before intermission to let the Cats go to the locker room leading 43-25.
Throughout the half, Calipari used a variety of lineups. To start the game, it was his “veterans” (Quickley, Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery, and Nick Richards) plus Keion Brooks, Jr. This combo seemed to play a bit more organized (i.e. designed plays) and did so rather well. Tyrese Maxey made the most of his 25 minutes, scoring 14 points while grabbing 4 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists. Nate Sestina also had a solid outing, very quietly getting a double-double (11 points, 10 boards). But it was Quickley who led all the Cats with 16 points with 3 assists and no turnovers. Postgame, Quickley again credited his faith and God for his continued improvement, repeating what he told reporters after the Blue-White game that “keeping God first” remains his priority.
The fourth Cat to hit double figures was Ashton Hagans. He ended the night with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals. He got the assignment to guard Georgetown’s star, Jake Ohmer, and while Ohmer did score 25 points, the Tigers didn’t have enough support to help him out.
The biggest disappointment in the game revolved around Nick Richards. It wasn’t regressive play or a failure to rebound or being lost on offense. Actually, growth in all those areas was readily apparent and Richards was “even calling for the ball” in the post, Calipari said after the game. No, the disappointment was when Nick’s foot came down apparently on top of Georgetown’s Jake Ohmer’s foot and this resulted in a “rolled ankle” and, at least for the moment, an unknown time frame for recovery.
Perhaps surprising, and certainly not pleasing to Coach Calipari was the Cats losing the battle of the boards (45-39), though Georgetown’s head coach noted “when you miss a lot of shots, you have a chance for a lot of offensive rebounds.”
The Cats will be in action again on Friday when they have their final exhibition prior to the season opener versus Michigan State in the Champion’s Classic on November 5th. Friday’s opponent will be another local team, Kentucky State University. The game will begin at 7 pm and is scheduled to be broadcast on the SEC Network.
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