By LARRY VAUGHT
Even after scoring a career-high 26 points, including 22 in the second half when he carried Kentucky’s offense, there was no patting himself on the back by sophomore Immanuel Quickley after Saturday night’s 65-59 win over Florida.
“God’s been good, it’s all Him. But my teammates do a great job of finding me especially in transition. This team has been great, we have a lot of fun and that keeps us going,” Quickley said.
Quickley has been on a tear in Southeastern Conference play. He now has seven games with 20 or more points and all have been in the last 15 games and five times in the last nine SEC games he’s gone for 20 or more. He’s also now scored in double figures 16 straight times, the longest UK streak since Malik Monk scored in double figures 30 straight games during the 2016-17 season.
Quickley made four 3-pointers, all in the second half, and when he hits three or more 3’s, the Cats win. Kentucky is 9-0 when he has three 3’s.
More impressive is his free throw shooting. He went 6-for-6 at the foul line — and barely raised his percentage because he was hitting over 91 percent coming into the game. He’s now made 130 of 142 free throws this season.
Quickley’s play was so good against Florida that teammates Tyrese Maxey, EJ Montgomery and Ashton Hagans all playfully bowed down to him after the game before the team left the court. Maybe coach John Calipari wanted to do the same, too, because on Friday he had cited the need to have Quickley join Maxey, Nick Richards and Hagans in the 25-point club.
“I remember coach Calipari saying to the team (on Friday), ‘Raise your hand if you are in the 25+ club,” and everyone looked at me like you haven’t had 25 points yet? It happened really quick; I wasn’t pressed to get it, but it just happened,” Quickley said.
Quickley had just four points the first half when he was 1-for-6 from the field. Quickley said he remembered one of the coaches yelling at him something about needing to score more the second half. Calipari said after the game he was upset with Quickley for passing up open shots to try to drive inside for tougher shots.
“Coach Calipari always has my best interest, so I’ve just been playing and trying to be free and just hoop. When they’re yelling at me to shoot, it doesn’t mean I have to, but just be more aggressive with making opportunities for myself or my teammates,” Quickley said.
“In the second half you just have to be a little more aggressive, really in any game in the first or second half. When my team needs me, I try to provide that spark. The guys are always good about being like, ‘Come on Quick, we need you,’ things like that. This team has been great and I’m just thankful for my team.”