The second largest crowd for a UK basketball game this season at Rupp Arena was holding its collective breath today, as Kentucky won 67-62 in a back-and-forth game against Ole Miss.
The offense was abysmal in the first half as Kentucky spent a lot of time shooting three-point shots, and missing them, as they went into halftime 1-13 from downtown and 9-30 (30%) overall from the field.
Even with all the poor shooting numbers, UK was just down 27-25 at half, and UK Head Coach John Calipari did not feel a change was needed at halftime, but rather a spark.
“What I said (at halftime) is you’re 1 for 13 from the three and not one of them contested. You’ve missed nine one-foot shots. You’re 1 for 10 from three feet, and you’re in the game,” Calipari said. “You’re down two. So let’s go. I mean, basically what I said.”
The team came out and shot better from the field overall, going 48% overall from the field in the second half, and finished at the basket more, as they finished with 32 points in the paint (went into halftime with just 12).
Not just were they finishing shots around the rim, they were hitting their free-throw shots once again down the stretch. They went 13-14 from the line in the second half (6-10 in the first half), and finished 19-24 overall from the free-throw stripe.
Ole Miss, although overall relatively effective from the line going 8-11 from the stripe for the game, they shot 13 less than Kentucky did. Ole Miss Head Coach Kermit Davis feels that is the biggest reason that UK won the game.
“That was the difference,” Davis said. “They (UK) attacked the paint and got to the line and they are a very good free throw shooting team.”
Just like the team as a whole, sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley struggled in the first half, scoring just three points on 0-5 shooting from three, going 1-2 from the line and 1-9 from the field overall.
The second half, though, Quickley started to make shots, as he went 3-6 from the field and 7-8 from the line, finishing with a team-high 17 total points for the game and his 14th straight game in double-figures.
Immanuel Quickley said not just did he have to keep his moral up himself when shots were not falling, his teammates and coaches kept telling him to shoot, too.
“They instill a lot of confidence in me which helps me give a lot of confidence to myself,” Quickley said.
Kentucky won the rebounding battle 41-33 today, and the Cats are 17-0 this season when they win the rebounding battle in a game. A lot of that and winning tight games down the stretch, even with bad shooting games, UK Head Coach John Calipari says, is about toughness.
“Biggest thing I keep coming back to, these teams are trying to out-rough us, and we’ve just got to get lower and we’ve got to be prepared and just say we’re not going to accept that” Calipari said. “They’re going to have bad shooting nights. You just want to see them fight.”
Junior forward Nick Richards finds more confidence in the team that they can win games when they are not at their best.
“I think it’s a great sign,” Richards said. “You know, to show we just have a winning mentality, a will to win as coach (John Calipari) would say.”
Kentucky now improves to 20-5 in the season and 10-2 in SEC play. They also extended their win streak to now 11 in a row against Ole Miss. The next game for UK will be Tuesday night at 9 p.m. in Baton Rouge, as the Cats take on LSU. The game will be televised on ESPN.