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EJ Montgomery a “difference-maker” for Cats

EJ Montgomery was happy to be back playing Friday. (Jeff Houchin Photo)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON — Kentucky had its full roster intact and it showed Friday night.

The ninth-ranked Wildcats pieced together their best performance since a 91-49 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 8 and easily defeated Mount St. Mary’s 82-62 in the first of two games in a  three-day span. Kentucky closes out the stretch against Lamar Sunday night.

Kentucky (4-1) welcomed the return of sophomore EJ Montgomery, who finished with seven points and grabbed six rebounds. Montgomery played 15 minutes in his first appearance since a season-opening 69-62 win over Michigan State earlier this month at Madison. Square Garden.

“The guy that made the difference is EJ. You would have never known he was not playing for a while,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I mean, not having him really affects us. Having him, when he’s playing, he’s a difference-maker.”

Montgomery was part of a 1-2 inside punch that scored 40 points in the paint. Nick Richards picked up where he left off following his performance against Utah Valley earlier this week. The sophomore forward scored 21 against the Wolverines and totaled 19 points to go along with three blocks against the Mountaineers.

“We knew there since and athleticism could present some big problems for us,” Mount St. Mary’s coach Dan Engelstad said. “They are so good in transition and so good in the paint (and) they hurt us inside.”

Montgomery’s presence proved to be a plus for the Wildcats. Montgomery suffered a high-ankle sprain in the season-opener and has been rehabilitating in an effort to get back on the court. He waited out the timetable and said the plan was to play against the Mountaineers.

“I was super-happy (to be back),” he said. “Sitting there watching wasn’t fun and I was just glad to be out there with the guys again. … I missed three games and that’s a long time.”

Montgomery’s teammates were happy to see Montgomery back on the court smiling and contributing to the team’s second double-digit victory of the season.

“It was great to have EJ Montgomery back,” Kentucky freshman Kahlil Whitney said. “He’s a killer. It was everything. He’s great defensively, he’s another offensive threat. He can stretch the floor and shoot threes.”

Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans also was pleased to see his classmate back on the court.

“It was real big for EJ to be back and do what he did tonight,” said Hagans, who finished with 16 points and dished out seven assists. “That was real big. …. that’s what we’re going to need for this team to be at our best.”

The hardest game for Montgomery to endure while sitting out was Kentucky’s 67-74 loss to Evansville on Nov. 12 that bounced the Wildcats from the top of polls.

“It was definitely hard,” he said. “I just wanted to go out there, take the boot (off my foot) and help my team win. I couldn’t do that, but it was a hard loss.”

As long as he’s healthy, Montgomery plans to continue to build on his performance against the Mountaineers in moving forward.

“I just (want to) get in there (and) play with energy and help my team win,” he said. “I just (want to) do everything I can, rebound, play defense and be a leader on the floor.”

He also knows the Wildcats have to do better on the offensive glass. Kentucky collected just six offensive boards against the Mountaineers.

“We’re working on that every day,” he said. “I can definitely help in that area. I’m quick — quicker than most bigs, so I can get around them and go get the board.”

* * *

Gametracker: Lamar at Kentucky, 6 p.m. Sunday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

18 comments

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  1. EJ…a difference maker? He did help pick up the slack that Nate is leaving behind, but Nick and Ashton were the heartbeat of the offense again. Immanuel came in and made as much or more of a difference as EJ did. This was a better performance albeit against a Popcorn State type of team. Lets put together two halves of good play on Sunday and get ready for our December schedule. Congrats on the win, but there is still much work to be done by this team.

  2. A win is a win and a very good thing but unbelievable how this team came out in the first half acting like they had no idea what was going on. Cal will continue to say it is because we are young, but it does make you wonder what this team and coaching staff does during the week. Nick continues to play well and hopefully the light has finally gone on for him and will carry thru the season. Surprising thing to me is that all of these inferior teams come into Rupp and have much better ball movement than we do. Problem areas for us continue to be allowing too many baskets at the rim and giving too many opponents offensive rebounds.
    Still disappointing with the play of Brooks and Sestina. Nate played 25 mins. and only took 3 shots. Sup with Jebari Juzang? Am guessing Cal will never again say this could be our best shooting team because we have a bunch of “makers”

  3. Mike,
    Calipari’s teams have always been like that…can’t or won’t make a post pass at the right time and everyone looks to drive first and then pass if they have to.

  4. Big time win for the CATS/ 4-1 boys. Made threes make this team lethal. Good job team!!!! Can they improve, absolutely. GO CATS!!!!

  5. Pup…..FSU has pulled Stoop”s name out of list of possible coaches. They cited 2 reasons: 1. They wanted a big time coach, and 2. They pulled game film of last 2 UT games. Guess we are stuck with him a little longer.

  6. Pup I echo your statement!!

  7. Mike, Stoops has our program going the right direction and he has done the change of the culture that’s make the program go. Stoops is like Cal there here for the long haul might as well get used to it. It doesn’t matter who’s the coach you and Catmandoo will still be whining regardless.

    1. i’m just having a little fun. Some of you guys take things too seriously. I still like to score on the Pupster.

    2. Winning seven games this year is very impressive if they beat Louisville

      1. Look at what UK has had to overcome in 2019. Terry Wilson goes down three games in. Backup QB Sawyer Smith goes down, Walker Wood nursing past injuries, etc. never able to play. Then UK inserts Bowden to play QB as a former UK WR. Gran puts together a running offense, and really a one dimensional attack, and gets them “bowl eligible.” Bowden becomes an amazing story on the grid iron by many talking heads, racking up over 1,000 rushing yards. If this team beats Louisville for it’s 7th win this Saturday, Stoops deserves COY in the SEC for 2019 season IMO.

  8. Dream on “Mr. Cardinal.” You earned the title too. It was not even close. Go cheer on Coach Mack and the Cards. They are more your style. I don’t know which of you two “Mr. Cardinal” or “Mr. Spartan” are the”MOST USELESS” on this here UK sports site. I think though that title goes to “Mr. Spartan” as I weigh in, and try to be fair minded. Tell me, you and him talk all the time at your dance class, where was he for days after the big win by the UK Wildcats over his No. 1 “Spartans?” I thought he might have passed on or been locked up. I was concerned! I also heard a rumor that they had to take him to the ER after that UK victory. Now he is alive and well and mouthing off bigger than ever. But I take heart, his days are numbered on the mighty VV’s here. The famous Hornet1 bet here on VV’s has him incoherent these days, grasping at straws so to speak, trying to stay relevant. For the FSU football job, I hear Mr. Spartan says it could be Billy Donovan if he don’t get his NBA OC Thunder team rolling soon. Keep me posted their light weight. And remember your battle cry which you “coined” days ago, “Duped By Stoops.” Yeah right. GO CATS!!

    1. Is it possible that UL currently has the better coach? Don’t you think they have done more with much less in just 1 year?

      1. @ Mr. Cardinal:

        Perhaps…
        UL has the right coach for UL and
        UK has the right coach for UK.

        BTW:
        Why do you think UL has “much less” and
        Why do you think UL has done “much more”?

        This inquiring mind wants to know how you come to your conclusions?
        *PLEASE don’t tell me you get them from Mr. Spartan.

        1. Reasonably good questions H1, but I am a little uncertain why you can’t connect the dots. I don’t think UL recruiting has been as good as UK’s last few years (much less) UL has bowl qualified already and don’t think their competition that much, if any, less than ours (much more) Coach in first year in new system (much less) and UL beat a better opponent than we did (much more). UL has balanced offense (much more), UK 1 dimensional (much less) Guess more clarification a week out.

          1. Mr. Cardinal (Mike) Mack is a good coach, he is, but I say UK beats UL at Rupp when they face the Cards in late Dec. I tell you what I will do, I will leave VV’s for one whole year with no posts again until Dec. 28, 2020 after the Louisville game, if Louisville, whom you so highly exalt here, beats UK. Now if UK wins this coming rivalry game, you have to leave for one year. Are you game? How about you Catmandoo1000, Mr. Spartan? Same agreement?

      2. I don’t think anyone can doubt that Chris Mack is a really good coach

        1. Yes, and not too shabby of a recruiter either.

          1. He is a good coach, but I wouldn’t trade John Calipari for him!! Would you Larry Vaught?

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