Kentucky defeated Mount Saint Mary’s 82-62 tonight to improve to 4-1 on the season in a game that was really a tale of two halves.
The game in the first half was much like every game for the Cats since the Michigan State win, as they were only ahead 39-34, but then thanks to a 20-5 run to start the second half, Kentucky widened the score leading to a 20-point win.
During halftime, the Cats realized they had to work more as a team sparking the second half run.
“When we went into halftime we watched some film and they (the coaches) showed us what we needed to work on,” guard Ashton Hagans said. “We just went out there and started talking more and the rotation was there.”
UK Coach John Calipari was straight up when asked what he wanted the players to work on in the second half, and that was pick and roll.
“We had it on tape, showed them, talked them through it, and said this is what you have to be doing,” Calipari said.
With the rotations getting better with the pick and roll and overall along with more communicating on the court, the Cats found more flow and the ability to figure out weaknesses they have been trying to fix lately, especially on the defensive end.
“I feel like we made great strides defensively just knowing their personnel and trying to stop what they threw at us,” forward Khalil Whitney said. “Communication is a big key for us and we want to really be special and communicate more.”
Another boost for the Cats was the return of forward EJ Montgomery, who scored 7 points and grabbed 6 boards in his first game since last season after dealing with a high-ankle sprain that kept him out the first four games.
“Just sitting back watching from the bench was no fun,” Montgomery said. “I was glad to get on the floor with my guys again.”
Head Coach John Calipari did not hold back on how he felt about Montgomery’s impact, as he said, “The guy that made a difference was EJ.”
The other player who returned was guard Immanuel Quickley, who had missed the last game with a chest contusion, as he scored 13 total points all in the second half including going 3 of 4 from the three point line (the team as a whole went from just going 1-5 in the first half from the 3-point line to 5-10 in the second half).
“Immanuel (Quickley) is an electric scorer,” forward Khalil Whitney said. “He played great minutes off the bench and made a lot of three-pointers.”
One of things Coach Calipari strongly spoke about after the game in terms of wanting to improve was offensive rebounding, as the Cats were only able to grab six in the game.
“It’s not like we made every shot, we shot 50%, but there’s still 25 rebounds and you get six?” Coach Calipari said. “I’m telling them, whoever in this room wants to play more, (go) offensive rebound.”
It was not a complete or perfect game for Kentucky, as rebounding continues to be an issue and the first half as a whole did not go nearly as well as they had hoped, but in the second half they showed signs of improving and each player began to figure out what they need to do on the court, which is the casual nature of a John Calipari team as the season goes along.