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.