By LARRY VAUGHT
What do you say after a 2-for-22 shooting performance from 3-point range like Kentucky had against Mississippi Saturday?
If you managed to win like Kentucky did, then there was only one spin.
“That’s what the tournament is about, you know, you want to be at your best when the tournament comes around. We hear all the stories about a bad shooting night in the tournament and you lose a game,” said Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley. “Just knowing that we can still win games when we aren’t shooting, you know our defense can come through for us and that’s really what it’s about.”
He’s right. Hopefully UK won’t a shooting performance this bad in NCAA play, but off nights do happen.
“At the end of the day, Coach KP (Kenny Payne) always says fight, and do whatever it takes to win. I feel like this team did that tonight. I mean we had to get a couple crucial stops in a row, and that’s what we ended up doing,” freshman Tyrese Maxey said.
“A big thing for us today was knowing that we can still win while not shooting that well from the 3-point line. I think we only hit two shots and they were all pretty much wide open good shots, we just couldn’t hit today. Knowing that you can still win the game like that, leaning on your defense and leaning on your post players. Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery, Nate Sestina were all really good inside. That’s a big step for us.”
Richards called it a “great sign” for the Cats, who had to come from behind again to win.
“To show we just have a winning mentality, a will to win as coach would say. I wasn’t my best in the first half and in the post. I wasn’t really my best the whole entire game, but we still came out and found a way to win,” Richards said.
Richards said he didn’t think the Cats were forcing 3’s against a zone defense designed to give open looks from outside and stop him inside.
“I just think there were good shots, there were good open shots that we needed to make, they just weren’t going down. You know, it happens. You know, coach said we’re not robots, we’re not machines, it’s going to happen one game, and today it did,” Richards said.
The UK junior center said coach John Calipari’s description of the game as a “rock fight” because of the physical play was correct.
“There was a lot of battles down there, a lot of shoving guys, us fouling each other a lot. I’d say it was a pretty physical game,” Richards said.
But it was at least a winning game for UK.