By LARRY VAUGHT
Sophomore Immanuel Quickley scored 18 points in Kentucky’s 73-66 win over Auburn Saturday despite going just 3-for-10 from the field because he made all 11 free throws he took to boost his season average at the foul line to 92.2 percent for the season.
Quickley’s scoring was no surprise. It was his 18th straight game in double figures and he again was terrific in the second half when he had 12 points — he’s averaging 14.9 points per game in the second half during UK’s current eight-game win streak.
But what was a surprise was his rebounding. He had a career-high 12 rebounds, which was extremely important because Auburn had pounded UK on the boards in a win over the Cats four weeks ago.
What wasn’t easy, though, was trying to get Kentucky coach John Calipari to talk about Quickley’s rebounding. It seemed like it would a topic Calipari would go on and on about but like he often does, the coach has a way of talking about whatever points he had decided to make no matter what the questions were.
First question: How does someone 6-3, 188 pounds go get 12 rebounds, and is that something you need if you’re going to play three guards successfully all the way?
Calipari: “I can’t believe he was 1-for-5 from the three. We’re 2-for-13 from the 3, folks, and only have seven turnovers, …”
The coach didn’t come back to Quickley, so another media brought up another question that gave him a chance to talk about Quickley.
Second question: You’ve got three guards shooting over 80 percent from the line, and that said, do you want the ball in Immanuel’s hands in crucial moments?
Calipari: “Yeah, we do. And again, I know Ashton (Hagans) went 2-for-13 (from the field) …”
Okay, enough is enough. Quickley could be SEC player of the year. Make that Quickley should be SEC player of the year. Why not say more about a 6-3 guard grabbing 12 rebounds, especially in a game where center Nick Richards had just three rebounds.
Plus, Calipari was in jovial mood as he should have been and had enjoyed poking fun at media members for again bringing up the awful November loss to Evansville.
So here’s what I asked: “Did you think you would ever see a game where Immanuel got 12 rebounds?”
It was the final question of the press conference and I was convinced Calipari would give some insightful answer. Instead, here’s what he said: “I thought the Evansville game, he’d get 12 .”
Obviously that got a big laugh and ended the press conference without anyone really knowing what the coach thought about his sophomore getting 12 rebounds.
Fortunately, Quickley was able and willing to talk about his 12 rebounds.
“There were a couple tough rebounds but some of them were just free throw rebounds, so I was just trying to get in there and do anything to help my team win,” Quickley said. “Nick was boxing out, so was EJ (Montgomery). All the guys were really, so I was just trying to get in there and help my team.”