By LARRY VAUGHT
With no Reid Travis, Kentucky needed help again from someone inside and sophomore Nick Richards responded with 15 rebounds, seven points and two blocked shots in 25 minutes in UK’s 70-66 victory over Auburn Tuesday night.
“It felt pretty good just to be on the court, going out there and playing with my teammates and coming out with a W. It was a lot of fun out there tonight,” Richards said.
For months Kentucky coach John Calipari has been pleading for more from Richards and also stressing he could be the key to UK’s success in March.
Naturally, Calipari was almost giddy after the game about the way Richards played.
“I was happy for him. First half he wasn’t very good. As a matter of fact he wanted out. I said you’re not coming out. Figure it out. Stay in the game,” Calipari said. “Second half he was good.”
Good, but not perfect.
“He had three one-handed rebounds. He’s drifted that way, which cost him three rebounds, but he had 15. He could have had 18. I mean he just reached with one hand and it got away. One of them they got the ball on the baseline out,” Calipari said.
“It’s going to take him time to work through this. He has to work through it. Not anybody else. He’s got to figure it out. No mud wrestling. You’re not good at it. You get thrown to the floor, you look bad, you look awkward. When he moves his feet and uses his length and reaches and goes and releases from being in a mud wrestling match and just goes and gets balls he’s pretty good.”
Freshman EJ Montgomery had foul problems that made it even more important for Richards to play well to help UK stay in a first-place tie for the SEC lead.
“It was good that Nick played,” Calipari said before noting that Arkansas “deserved to win” more than UK did.
Richards said that Calipari “got on u s” at halftime.
“He got on all of us to be better with the basketball. I had two turnovers in the first half; it was just silly mistakes. You know, stepping out of bounds, I didn’t even see the line. So, just silly mistakes like that,” Richards said. “We just like being ahead, but we just like to play basketball in general. We like to compete with other teams. Other than that, it’s really awful that we were down in that first half. We just fought back and came out with a W.”