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PJ Washington, EJ Montgomery lead UK over South Carolina 76-48

PJ Washington had 20 points against South Carolina. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

PJ Washington didn’t get his fourth-straight double-double but he did have another 20-point performance and freshman EJ Montgomery had a breakthrough of his own with a monster double-double to get Kentucky past South Carolina 76-48.

It was not always a pretty game — SEC Network analyst and former Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy called it a “mucky” game — and it was. But I have seen ugly, mucky or whatever word you want to use games against South Carolina that Kentucky lost. This time Kentucky may not have played its best but it won by 28 points over a team that came into the game with a 6-2 SEC record.

Montgomery had 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting — he even made a 3-pointer — along with 13 rebounds. He had five of Kentucky’s 21 offensive rebounds along with a block and steal while playing 20 minutes.

“He is ready to break t through. This was a great game for him because it was physical. That is one thing holds him back sometimes. Suddenly he’s getting every rebound. I am telling you, him and Nick (Richards) take us to another level,” Calipari said.

“They called his number and he answered,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said about Montgomery and also noted his team’s lack of physical play.

Montgomery said teammates had kept him positive waiting for his chance to have a game like he did against South Carolina.

“I just tried to focus on defense, rebounds and let the game come to me,” Montgomery said. “I have good timing (to block shots) and just try not to let the other team score. I just want to help my team win.”

Washington had 20 points on 6-for-16 shooting, including 2-for-4 from 3-point range. He had five rebounds, two steals and one assist in 28 minutes.

“If PJ Washington keeps having games like this, his dad should have knee surgery every day,” SEC Network announcer Tom Hart said referring to Paul Washington having knee surgery earlier Tuesday.

Kentucky dominated the second half with its defense. South Carolina hit its first two shots in the second half and then missed 16 of its next 18. The Gamecocks ended up missing 21 of 29 shots the second half and the only 3-pointer was a bank shot from the corner. But even that fluke couldn’t keep South Carolina from becoming the third SEC foe to fail to get 50 points against UK as the Gamecocks had their season low against UK. Kentucky also had 11 steals.

“Kentucky just strangles you in the half court defensively and has done that all night to South Carolina,” Kennedy said.

Tyler Herro and Reid Travis both had 11 points for Kentucky and Keldon Johnson had nine points and six rebounds. Ashton Hagans had four assists and three steals but also had six turnovers, no rebounds and just two points

“This was a good win for us. South Carolina is a good team. We hit them on a good day,” Calipari said.

3 comments

  1. I knew Travis would not be pushed around by USC bully ball. He was a beast inside early on. Then came EJ. Wow! He was a monster on the boards. No wonder Washington didn’t get his 10. EJ and Reid got all of them.

    The team finally wore down the Gamecocks with their stellar defense. Once they got a little tired it was all over. No way they could shoot over the stingy UK defense the entire game like they did early.

    This team takes pride in their defense. The numbers are amazing. Yet another team held to below 55 points. Yet another team well under 40% shooting. That’s defense. And it led to the big offensive push too. USC went a long time without scoring in the second half while UK scored off their defense numerous times.

    This team can make some noise in the tournament. They don’t have a single player defenses can key on. They play solid defense and they crash the boards. Those things get you wins especially if your shooters show up. A lot of open shots were missed and they still won by 28. If they make a good percentage of open shots they will be amazing.

  2. Big time UK win ugly or not. EJ was the difference in many ways too. This team can beat UT if they play physical, and defend like they have been.

  3. Travis has not delivered the double double production that everyone thought he would and that was wishful thinking to begin with. This team has scorers, what it didn’t have was enough toughness and physicality. PJ is a stretch 4, not a 5 and Reid has filled that spot well. Now other teams have 2 wide bodies to deal with and not just one. EJ had a good game in a surprising setting…a brawl. Nick will provide some help at times, but his foul problems will keep him from becoming a difference maker…this year. EJ has the opportunity to be that difference maker if he commits to being a solid defender and rebounder in a whack-a-mole type game. The offense will come in the course of the game…lobs, put backs, free throws, and an occasional jump hook. He needs to forget about the 3 point line this year, maybe add that as a weapon next year. This team doesn’t need that from him this year. We need a tough interior presence like he delivered last night. His ability to continue that level of play will determine how far this team goes.

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