By LARRY VAUGHT
He didn’t score in 10 minutes at Florida Saturday but Kentucky coach John Calipari thought freshman EJ Montgomery played a major role in UK’s 65-54 victory.
Montgomery had three rebounds and blocked a shot but most importantly provided needed energy for the Wildcats.
“I was so happy for EJ Montgomery,” Calipari said after the game. “I thought he was the difference in the game because we needed one more big guy to do something, to go get balls, to come up off the floor, to go be active defensively. He guarded the ball.”
Kentucky trailed 17-13 midway of the first half when the Gators’ Deaundrae Ballard looked like he was free inside to score when Montgomery somehow blocked the shot to start a 5-0 run to give Kentucky a short lead. It was one of only two shots the Cats blocked in the game.
His biggest play, though, came in the second half with UK down 43-32 when PJ Washington missed a free throw and Montgomery got the rebound. Eventually Keldon Johnson scored.
Florida coach Mike White said that play was “devastating” to his team because of the way it changed momentum.
“EJ made a big impact on the game,” UK freshman Tyler Herro, who had a game-high 19 points, said. “He made us change with his energy and got a key offensive rebound. He brought a lot.
Calipari also praised what freshman guards Jemarl Baker and Immanuel Quickley did off the bench despite missing 10 of 12 shots.
“Jemarl and Immanuel helped us,” Calipari said. “Immanuel went one for whatever, but it didn’t matter because he got the biggest rebound and made the free throws down the stretch to finish the game off.”