EditorsNote: Added city/location in lede; Added context in 3rd graf; Added missing word ‘battle’ in 6th graf
No. 17 Kentucky, the preseason pick to win the Southeastern Conference, took the first step toward that goal with a 71-59 victory over visiting Missouri in Lexington, Ky., in the league opener for both teams.
The Wildcats, winners of a conference-best 48 SEC titles, got 21 points and 12 rebounds from junior forward Nick Richards and 23 points off the bench from sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley. It was career-best for Quickley and the sixth double-double of the season for Richards.
It was Richards who carried Kentucky (10-3, 1-0 SEC) early, scoring his team’s first nine points until nearly the midway point of the first half. By halftime, Richards had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go with eight rebounds.
Richards and Quickley also were integral in Kentucky grabbing control of the game with a 12-0 run midway through the first half. Trailing 17-9 with 10:22 to play, Kentucky got five points from Richards and a 3-pointer from Quickley to spark the run to go up 21-17 with 7:38 to play. The Wildcats were never threatened after that.
Missouri, No. 1 in the SEC in scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense, held Kentucky to 41.7 percent shooting. However, Kentucky, the No. 1 free-throw shooting team in the conference at 79.0 percent, made 27 of 30. Quickley, who leads the SEC at 94.9 percent, made all nine tries. The Wildcats outscored Missouri 27-11 from the foul line.
Ashton Hagans, tops in the SEC at 7.3 assists per game, had seven assists. Kentucky also won the rebounding battle, 36-31.
Kentucky’s defense limited Missouri to 36.2 percent shooting, including 6 of 18 from 3-point range.
Guard Dru Smith was the only player for Missouri (8-5, 0-1) in double figures with 11 points. Freshman Kobe Brown added nine.
—Field Level Media