By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari, UK players and certainly Big Blue fans had been waiting for the kind of breakout game that freshman EJ Montgomery had against South Carolina when he got his first double-double — 11 points, 13 rebounds.
Maybe the only one not surprised was South Carolina coach Frank Martin.
“EJ wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American because he’s no good. I don’t know Calipari’s team. I’m not at practice every day, but he’s got three guys on the front line, two of which started last year, that are both really good and a fifth-year senior. So, I’m sure EJ keeps getting better because he is competing with those guys in practice,” Martin said.
“He got an opportunity tonight. He’s extremely active on the interior, he protected the rim. He rebounded every ball that came off the rim. That credit to EJ. They called his number today and responded and played with physicality and just created problems with us.”
Montgomery said the work in practice paid off against South Carolina and agreed with Martin about what going against Washington, Travis and Richards daily does for him.
“It definitely gets me ready for physical games like this one. Going against them every day is a challenge and gets me prepared,” Montgomery, who even hit a 3-pointer, said.
No one was happier for Montgomery than Washington.
“It was great. I’m happy for him. I’m one of his biggest fans and just to see him go out there and put a smile on everyone’s faces, that’s big for us,” Washington said.
Not as big a fan as Calipari.
“Double-double, active, playing hard, blocking shots. He’s starting to come around,” Calipari said after Tuesday’s game. “This was a great game for him to prove it against a really physical team, that they’re going to get body-to-body on you. He was able to still get it done.”