By LARRY VAUGHT
Just how good is Kentucky, which is on a four-game win streak and unbeaten in SEC play?
“That Kentucky team, they’re as good as anybody I’d seen, and I’ve seen everyone in the country,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said after Kentucky beat his team 76-67 Saturday in Rupp Arena.
One major reason UK won is because it went 9-for-15 from 3-point range.
“If you take away those3’s, it’s a different game. That is on them for getting their shooters shots when they needed to,” Oats said. “They had big-time players who stepped up and made shots when they needed to make them.”
Going into the game, no one could have blamed Oats or his players for not anticipating that kind of long range shooting performance.
Oats noted there are 353 Division I basketball team and going into Saturday’s game UK was 351st in shots from 3-point range.
“So you don’t think they’re going to kill you from three. We hit four, they hit nine, and three of the nine came in the last few minutes,” Oats said. “(Ashton) Hagans, though it seems like he doesn’t make a ton of 3’s, he hits timely 3’s. The one where he came off the screen and hit the pull-up was huge.
“Then, with nine seconds left, they call a timeout, come out a timeout and drill a three (by Immanuel Quickley). Great play, knowing how we guard inbounds plays. We were supposed to switch that out, it didn’t get switched. We should have gone smaller so maybe it was likely that we had a guy that could switch out on him. That play is on the coaching staff. They did a better job coming out the timeout than we did.”
Quickley’s shooting can make any coach look good. He was 5-for-6 from 3-point range and is 14 of 23 on 3’s during UK’s four-game win streak.
“With him shooting like that, it’s a completely different team. If he shoots 5 of 6 from 3, I am not sure who is better than that in the country. You know, he goes 5 of 6, there is probably a reason he played 34 minutes tonight,” Oats said.
Kentucky teammate EJ Montgomery says Quickley is “super hot” recently.
“He has been knocking down a lot of shots and he has been having a lot of fun,” Montgomery said.
When he’s doing that, it helps Montgomery and all the Cats because opponents have to spread out on the floor to defend him.
“They have to go out there and guard Immanuel and that is just going to leave us open as bigs,” Montgomery said.