By LARRY VAUGHT
Today might be the most important game of Nick Richards’ Kentucky basketball career when the Cats host Missouri this afternoon.
The junior center is coming off a spectacular game in the overtime win over Louisville when he had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 11 drawn fouls. It was the best he’s played in a spotlight game, especially when he shined in overtime.
Now can he sustain that effort?
Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said Friday that Richards had been “good” in practice all week.
“He’s been good, but we need carry over. I think that’s one of the things that Nick has struggled with is consistency. He’s done it in spots, but to be the kind of player that he wants to be, where he’s trying to take himself to, his game to, where he wants to go in this game, he’s got to be able to do it on an everyday basis,” Barbee said.
“That’s not just game-to-game, that’s practice-to-practice, and that’s what brings it out. This week he’s been great, and I think his confidence is building off of what he did against a really good Louisville team and really good big men he did it against.”
Why didn’t he do that the previous two games, losses to Utah and Ohio State?
“That’s a good question. When Nick is out here you can ask him. He’ll have that answer,” Barbee said.
Richards didn’t exactly have the answer but said he understands the coaches are just trying to make him better and that coach John Calipari will never be satisfied with his performance because he wants Richards to always strive to do more.
“He always thinks you have more in the tank. That’s just him being a good coach,” Richards said.
Richards knows Barbee wants him to be the ” complete opposite of my personality” on the court.
“He wants me to be more aggressive, more physical, meaner, tougher,” Richards said.
So what did happen against Louisville?
“I would probably just say I took it up a notch, got to a different level because I knew it was a very important game for Kentucky, especially just to win that one game,” Richards said.
Now it’s a “very important game” for Richards to show that he can back up one sensational performance with more big-time performances starting today.