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Kentucky has “no chance of winning” without Nick Richards and he delivered in a big, big way again

Nick Richards (UK Athletics Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Not only can Immanuel Quickley make plays on the court, but he has a way with words.

“We had no chance of winning without Nick,” Quickley said after UK’s 76-74 overtime win at Texas Tech Saturday that snapped Tech’s 54-game non-conference home winning streak.

It wasn’t always pretty. Texas Tech had 25 points off 13 UK turnovers and Kentucky had just one field goal in the final 6 minutes, 15 seconds of play and then had another three-minute drought without a field goal in overtime.

But Superman — also known as Nick Richards — was always there when UK needed him the most. He finished with 25 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field and 11-for-14 at the foul line along with 14 rebounds and four blocks. He’s not only a consistent double-double machine now, but he played 39 minutes without a turnover and only three fouls even though the Red Raiders tried to at him a lot.

“The last two years Nick maybe would not even want to be in the game (at crunch time). Now he wants the ball,” ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes said.

Even if you don’t always agree with Dykes, he’s right about. Freshman and sophomore Nick Richards did not have the confidence to do what he did Saturday. Now he does.

“I kissed Nick on the forehead,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after the game. “I said, ‘There are about three of you in this room who need to do this, but I’ll do it for you.’ Nick is just taking it to another level.”

He’s right. Kentucky didn’t get banner games from a lot of players but the Cats did do one thing — they fought despite mistakes and some questionable officiating. They also knew, especially Ashton Hagans, to get the ball to Richards at key times even if they did forget that a bit after building a 10-point lead they almost blew again like they did at South Carolina two weeks ago.

Richards is now UK’s leading scorer (14.3 points per game), rebounds (8.1 per game), blocks (48), field goals made (104) and field goal percentage (67.5). He’s second in free throw attempts (87) and is hitting 73.6 at the line. He’s also making just one turnover per 17 minutes played.

Kentucky Radio Network analyst Mike Pratt, a former UK All-American, called Richards a beast after the game. Senior Nate Sestina agreed during his postgame interview.

“Nick every day he wants to get better. He is on a treadmill. It’s not a fluke (he’s better). He’s doing it. In the weight room, getting ups shots, playing one on one with guards so he can do that,” Sestina said. “It is good that he has taken that step for himself and built his confidence He is the one doing it. Give credit to the coaches but he busts his butt and has one of the best work ethics and drives on our team. He’s done this.”

Richards is never going to brag on himself. He wouldn’t after this game — when he easily could have.

What was he thinking when he took the last seven free throws to help UK win?

“We need it,” he said.

Just like Kentucky needs Richards who might be playing as well or better than any center in the country now.

15 comments

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  1. Glad they found a way to win, but they made it much harder than it had to be.
    20 turnover and at least half as many missed layups and 5 footers.
    This team sometimes has a problem “valuing” the ball and that concerns me probably more than anything else about this team.

  2. Let’s ask the “final question” ! ! Who won the game ?? People such as yourself make me sick !!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. You don’t even know me.
      What did I say that is wrong??
      UK has had several games with too many turnovers. I know Cal will work on that because he has even spoke to this very topic.
      Sorry I couldn’t make you happy by speaking like someone too blind to see the obvious!

    2. Has anyone heard any status about Dioante Allen. Cal has kept quite about him just wonder if he could step in Whitney shoes.

  3. I gotta agree with old fan that last 5 minutes of regulation time there was too much of me instead of we team play. Exactly what happened against Ohio St but this time we managed to escape on this one

    1. That happens, you have to learn and I think these Cats are. Plus give Tech some credit. Really good defense

  4. An awesome win, but a lucky one as well. 20 turnovers won’t beat a good team at their place unless someone makes a halfcourt shot at halftime. I really don’t think we can count on that again. This team still has work left to do, but the article is right, we don’t win this game without Nick….and, uh Immanuel.

  5. Glad Nick decided to stick around for 3 years.
    Like he said, one and done is not for everyone and there is not a Freshman Center in the country that I would trade him for.
    I also think Nick will end up being a pretty good player in the pros.
    Wish more would stick around longer, but if you’re ready and the money is there, you have to take it.

  6. OldFan is correct. We have a problem putting our foot on the opponents throat when the opportunity presents itself. If I’ve learned one thing over the last 10 seasons, it’s never to lose faith in Coach Cal and his teams. He ALWAYS has them ready when it counts the most, in March

  7. We’re still in January, so this is a great game tape to learn from and to point out how “hero ball” can put us out of the Big Dance quickly. I’m really into the process of development this year and have reasonable expectations for at least a Final Four this year. Anything after that is all gravy. Go Cats!

  8. Belived it or not guys Cal is10-0 when the cats has 20 or more turnovers in a game.

    1. That’s the stat of the week.

    2. That’s amazing, but I wish they wouldn’t make us sweat it out like that!

      1. true

  9. Big time win against a good team on their floor with a packed house ready to explode. Cats got it done. Roll on Big Blue!!!!

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