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UK Wildcats roll to fourth straight victory with win over Winthrop Eagles, 87-74, at Rupp


By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky enjoyed a feast on the hardwood before taking a day off for Thanksgiving, rolling to an 87-74 win over Winthrop in a matinee contest Wednesday afternoon at Rupp Arena.

The 10th-ranked Wildcats (4-1) placed five players in double figures, led by PJ Washington with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Kentucky has won four straight since dropping a disappointing 34-point loss to top-ranked Duke in the Champions Classic earlier this month.

“This team played for 24 minutes the way I needed them to play,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “The rest of it, Winthrop was just slicing and dicing and driving and making threes. … The biggest thing this team doesn’t have right now is the discipline to play 40 minutes. I happy with 24 minutes and that’s better than some of these games where it’s 15 minutes, 12 minutes.”

Tyler Herro followed Washington with 15 points, Keldon Johnson had 13, Quade Green added 11 and Nick Richards chipped in with 10. Washington has scored 43 points during the past three games and has recorded back-to-back double-doubles for the first time this season and the fifth time in his career.

Nick Richards scored 10 points and blocked two shots in Kentucky’s 87-74 win over Winthrop. (Photo by Tammie Brown/Kentucky Today)

“I want more from him,” Calipari said. “… don’t ever let up, ever. When he does it, he’s as good as any player in the country. When he doesn’t, he’s OK but he doesn’t have an impact on the game. The other way, he absolutely impacts the game. I’m not going to accept anything other than that.”

Herro missed his first three shots from long range but eventually hit the bullseye and connected on three 3-pointers. He made two in the second half as the Wildcats pulled away from the Eagles.

“He did good today,” Calipari said. “Making him catch and shoot is all we worked on (this week) — catch it and get it off. He was much better today.”

Kentucky dished out 20 assists, led by Herro with seven, a career-high. Washington added four assists and Immanuel Quickley finished with three. Calipari was pleased with the unselfishness play but desires more from his squad.

“We didn’t have enough hockey assists,” he said. “If a man is in front of you, throw him the ball. Guys are fighting it right now. That can’t be who we are, especially because of our size.”

Richards made his first start, but was plagued by foul woes early and logged just six minutes in the opening half. Richards slammed home a pair of dunks and scored six of Kentucky’s first 11 points of the first half. Reid Travis came off the bench for the second time this season and finished with eight points.

Calipari said a block by Richards to open the second half set the tone for his team’s 11-0 run to open the final 20 minutes.

“That was Nick Richards, but that’s who he must be or EJ (Montgomery),” Calipari said. “If they’re both doing it and we’re subbing for each other, we’re good. If one is not doing it, I’m playing the other. We need that guy and that will change our defense.”

Washington tallied 13 points and added eight rebounds in the opening half. Washington grabbed a career-high 18 rounds in a 92-82 win over VMI Sunday.

Kentucky’s perimeter defense wasn’t much better after the Wildcats surrendered 19 3-pointers against VMI on Sunday. The Eagles made 13 shots from long range to prevent the hosts from going into full blowout mode down the stretch.

“For 24 minutes, we played pretty good defense,” Calipari said. “Let’s figure this out, why is this happening? We’re still giving up threes. We went from the point guards shooting them to now the centers shooting them.”

SERVING ON THANKSGIVING

As part of his yearly tradition, Calipari will take his team to the Salvation Army to help serve a meal on Thanksgiving Day Thursday.

“I think it’s a great thing for these kids to be there and serve food and sign autographs and take pictures and touch people that are huge fans,” he said. “I always say, only with God’s grace that’s not us. I talk to them a lot about thinking about where you’ve come from. Think about what door you could have walked out of, and that can be you.

“Only by the grace of God that it’s not me. I could tell you my background where I could have walked that way instead of walking that way, and that could have been me. And so, they get a chance to respect, be humble, and I think it’s good for the soul. Really good.”

The team also will have a Thanksgiving meal at Calipari’s residence on Thursday.

Gametracker: Tennessee State at Kentucky, 7 p.m. Friday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.


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