Second half energy burst gave the Cats what they needed in 71-59 win


Freshman guard Immanuel Quickley dribbles the ball down the court. University of Kentucky men’s basketball team defeated Southern Illinois University 71-59 on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

A shaky first half from the Cats may have given Big Blue Nation some worries, but a burst of energy in the second half gave Kentucky the boost it needed to seal the 79-51 win over Southern Illinois University.

The Cats went neck and neck with the Salukis in the first half, ending in a 31-28 Kentucky lead at halftime. In the first 20 minutes of the game, the Wildcats had 14 turnovers, which SIU capitalized on and scored 13 points from. One-for-five three-point shooting and Kentucky big-man Reid Travis on the bench with early foul trouble gave the Cats more problems, but the second half turned out much different.

With just under 15 minutes left in the game, the Cats were down 44-37 after a layup by SIU’s Aaron Cook— but Kentucky came out of a time out and guard Quade Green drained a three to spark a fire in them and start a 9-0 run. Along with Green, Kentucky freshmen Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson both added big shots for the Cats to fuel the burst of energy they had in the second half.

“Just staying confident, I think it was only a matter of time before I started to make shots,” Quickley said. “I’ve been in the gym every morning before school, so I knew eventually I was gonna start making shots.”

Quickley said after the 34-point loss to Duke, his team had a lot to prove and that they were better than what they showed the fans in that game.

“That Duke game was a little tough, but you know this team is resilient, and I think we’ll bounce back from any challenge throughout the season, and it’s early so I think we’re going to keep getting better,” Quickely said.

The freshman attributes the high-energy play in the second half to the effort of his entire team, and said their communication was big as they started to grab ahold of the reigns.

“We made a couple spark plays, Quade played great, he gave us a lot of energy. Nick (Richards) rebounded, blocking shots, it was everybody, the bench kept it going and I really think that’s what it was,” Quickley said.

Freshman E.J. Montgomery added six points and four rebounds for the Cats in the second half and was the fourth player to reach double-figure scoring. Montgomery said he came out of halftime with energy and wanting to push the lead for his team.

“We tried to compete on the defensive end. We tried to get stops and get easy buckets in transition because that’s what we’re best at as a team,” Montgomery said.