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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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  1. UK played better defense in the second half, but it was not a stellar game for the Cats as a team IMO. They just can’t seem to put an opposing team away this year. Quickley and Maxey were the difference tonight. UK helped their cause at the free throw line too. I did think EJ played pretty well, despite early foul trouble. The Cats will have to play much better than this in the post season.

    1. Good post-I agree

  2. No excuse for the poor in bounding of the ball at the end of the game. Cal admitted he did a poor job of using old plays that are not working for this group…will correct hopefully. We win easily if they hadn’t imploded at the end.

  3. It was a win, but only on the scoreboard. We are playing as an outside in team where Nick is being under utilized. When that happens, Nick forces his shot the few times he gets one, I believe he got 7 today. It will get us beat next Saturday. We are playing like a team that will advance to the second weekend and go no further. Maybe we can get back on a Final 4 track, but clearly, we are not on the same level as Kansas or Baylor.

    1. On the scoreboard is all that counts, even against a Kansas or Baylor.

      1. We are not ready to play either Kansas or Baylor and win. Hopefully, Coach and the boys will figure it out soon. We still could be a Final 4 team if we play as a team, but right now, we are not a sure thing to win our own tournament. Don’t take my word for it, just listen to what Coach is saying.

        1. We’ll see. This current UK team, when they are hitting on all eight, will be a tough out for any team, ask Michigan State. Also, provided the officials call the game fair. They were written off long ago by a couple who used to post on this site. Those two are long gone, I think. UK sits atop the SEC right now. Just where they are supposed to be. I don’t care how they play, just go win. They seem to be doing just that of late. makes us fans hold our breath at times, but still counts in the won-loss column.

  4. I like the way this team plays with grit to win and yes there’s things that needs to be correct and it can be solved before post season starts. I like our chances to go far this team plays better on the road and think that will be our advantage down the road. Gotta agree about Kansas looks as good as anybody in the country but they have a cloud hanging over there head that probably be swept underneath the rug.

  5. This team can be very good, but they are making way too many mistakes this late in the season.
    When you have 3 sophomores and a junior on the floor, all with a lot of playing experience, and can’t get the ball in bounds, that is a problem. They are not thinking and making plays on their own.
    Also, Hagans is still making too many turnovers. Most are unforced. They are happening because he is getting himself in bad situations or trying to make passes that are not there.
    If they put it together, this can be a final four team, but I just don’t see the desire to get the ball where it needs to be from this group. Richards should be getting 10-12 shots every game. They do not have the shooters to be an outside-in team.

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