Cats find their own Gator-buster in Immanuel Quickley

Immanuel Quickley (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Remember the movie “Ghostbusters” and 1984 song by Ray Parker?

If you don’t, it went like this: “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!

“If there’s something weird And it don’t look good Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”

Well, sophomore Immanuel Quickley might not be a Ghostbuster but he certainly was a Gator-buster.

He hit four 3-pointers in the second half — three came in a 2:15 span where he had his own 9-0 spurt with UK down 44-41— and had a career-high 26 points, including two free throws with 1 second left, to help UK rally and then hold on to beat Florida 65-59 Saturday to keep a firm hold on first place in the Southeastern Conference.

Quickley was 7-for-11 from the field in the second half when he scored 22 points — he had 15 of UK’s first 19 points in the second half — and went 6-for-6 at the foul line. He also had just one turnover in 38 minutes which is big because UK nearly crumbled late when it let the Gators go on a 6-0 run in 1:02 to cut the lead to 61-59 with 20 seconds to play.

Of course, it was no great surprise what Quickley did because during UK’s six-game win streak he’s averaging 15.3 points per game IN THE SECOND HALF. Think about that.

UK was down 44-41 when Quickley hit three straight 3-pointers to change the momentum of the game.

“He was fantastic. He was the best player on the floor,” Florida coach Mike White said. “Hit huge shots and complimented that with tremendous defense on the perimeter.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari said he was with “IQ” after the win but was not happy with his first half.

“He is playing but in the first half he passed three or four shots. That’s why I grabbed him at halftime and said if don’t shoot open shots I will put Johnny (Juzang) in,” Calipari said. “You can’t be a team that plays late in March that passes up open shots to take tough shots just to look good.”

Tyrese Maxey flitted with a triple-double but still finished 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 38 minutes.

Kentucky survived despite Ashton Hagans, who had injured his thigh in Tuesday’s win at LSU and did not start, having six turnovers and Nick Richards having a below average game for him with nine points, six rebounds and no blocks.

The Cats also went 10-for-10 at the foul and has hit 75 percent or better at the foul line 10 straight games. That’s along with defense is how UK continues to win close, tough games like this.

“I just through their attention to detail and energy level was really good defensively the second half,” White said. “I thought they really guarded. We didn’t get much opportunity (offensively) the second 20 minutes.”

Calipari liked the way his team fought and played “empowered” in the second half when it outscored Florida 34-28 and forced the Gators to miss 16 of 27 shots including eight on nine from 3-point range after Florida hit five 3’s in the first half.

Calipari said he made an “executive decision” to change defensively the second half.

“But we are tired. It was a physical game. It was hard,” Calipari said.

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