John Clay

With Kentucky rolling as a team, here’s a closer look at the individual parts

Not at its best, Kentucky still gets the job done at Florida

Kentucky basketball freshman guard Keldon Johnson talks about the team’s rally from an 11-point deficit to beat Florida 65-54 in Gainesville on Feb. 2, 2019. Johnson scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the win.
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Kentucky basketball freshman guard Keldon Johnson talks about the team’s rally from an 11-point deficit to beat Florida 65-54 in Gainesville on Feb. 2, 2019. Johnson scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the win.

Because there is not much more to say about a Kentucky basketball team on an eight-game win streak – expert analysis, the Cats are playing great – let’s focus instead on the individuals.

One game into February, progress reports on each player, in alphabetical order:

Jemarl Baker: The redshirt freshman missed all four of his three-pointers at Florida, but Baker has shown he doesn’t have to make shots to stay on the floor. In his last two games, Baker has played a season-high 19 minutes at Vanderbilt and 15 minutes at Florida. His three-point touch will return.

Jonny David: Everyone’s favorite walk-on has played in five games this season, including SEC games against Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. He has played seven total minutes, all without attempting a shot. That day will come. And the eRUPPtion Zone will eRUPPt.

Ashton Hagans: The freshman guard’s thievery pace has slowed, but only slightly. Starting with his eight steals in the CBS Sports Classic against North Carolina, Hagans made 26 steals in six games. That’s a ridiculous average of 4.3 steals per game. Since then, Hagans has nine steals in five games, a 1.8 average. No doubt teams are being extra careful with the basketball when Hagans creeps near.

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Kentucky’s Jemarl Baker reacted after missing a three-point attempt against Florida. He’s averaging 2.1 points and shooting 33.3 percent from long range this season. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Tyler Herro: Yeah, yeah, PJ Washington recorded another double-double Saturday. But UK’s leading scorer in the win over the Gators was Herro, who finished with 19 points. On an afternoon when most players from both teams were having trouble making shots, Herro was six of eight from the floor, including three of four from three-point range. That more than excused his three turnovers.

Keldon Johnson: You might not have noticed, but the freshman has been hitting the glass of late. OK, he didn’t at Vanderbilt, where Johnson failed to find a single rebound. Before that, however, he grabbed 10 boards in the win over Kansas to go with his 15 points for a double-double. After Vandy, Johnson was credited with eight rebounds at Florida. His season-high is 11 against UNC Greensboro on Dec. 1.

EJ Montgomery: John Calipari said the freshman reserve was the difference in UK’s win over UF on Saturday. (The Gators joined in on the praise.) Really? Montgomery failed to score in 10 minutes. Ah, but he had three rebounds, including an important offensive grab off a missed Washington free throw that led to a basket when the Cats needed a basket. There are signs that Montgomery is starting to play through the contact that bothered him earlier in the season.

Immanuel Quickley: The freshman guard’s three-point radar has been a bit off lately. He’s 3-for-14 from three over his last six games. On the plus side, Quickley was four of five from the foul line Saturday, including both ends of the bonus with 2:24 left that put Kentucky up 57-48.

Nick Richards: After a stellar 14-point game at Vanderbilt, the sophomore center failed to be a factor in Gainesville. In five minutes on the floor, he failed to take a shot or a get rebound while committing two turnovers. Cal keeps saying that down the stretch, the Cats are going to need a contribution from Richards. Cal’s correct.

Reid Travis: The grad student from Stanford was relatively quiet the last two games, managing just one point at Vandy and six at Florida. He did pull down seven rebounds against the Gators. Over his past five games, the 6-8 Travis is averaging 8.2 rebounds per game. His offense will return.

PJ Washington: Vandy Coach Bryce Drew called the sophomore forward perhaps the most improved player in the country. Florida Coach Mike White called Washington the best player on the floor. As previously mentioned, Washington recorded his third consecutive double-double on Saturday, scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. The last UK player to record three straight double-doubles was Julius Randle, who had four consecutive double-doubles in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

It should be noted Randle started his collegiate career with seven straight double-doubles. Under Calipari, DeMarcus Cousins also had a stretch of seven straight double-doubles. Anthony Davis’ longest streak was five.

Next game

South Carolina at No. 7 Kentucky

7 p.m. Tuesday (SEC Network)

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