Quickley Finds Range Late to Guide Comeback
Immanuel Quickley had been so steady that, when his shot wouldn’t fall, everything – at least offensively – seemed to go awry for Kentucky.
When he finally did hit on Saturday, things clicked back into place.
“Honestly, when I was missing, I was just telling myself, ‘Keep shooting. Eventually one gotta go in,’ ” Quickley said.
The first 28 minutes against Ole Miss were among the most forgettable of Quickley’s career, as he made just one of his first 10 shots, bricked his first six 3-pointers and missed multiple free throws for the first time all season. The last 12, Quickley carried No. 12/12 Kentucky (20-5, 10-2 Southeastern Conference) to a comeback victory over the Rebels (13-12, 4-8 SEC).
“This was like a rock fight,” John Calipari said. “Ended up being a great win.”
Quickley scored 13 points in the final 11:12, during which time UK turned a 45-38 deficit into a 67-62 victory. Down the stretch, he made 4-of-5 field goals and a big 3-pointer and six straight free throws, the last two extending UK’s lead to three in the final 10 seconds.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Quickley said. “That’s what you dream about as a kid, making shots, going to the line with the game on the line. Really, the only thing going through my mind is what we’re about to do on defense. I told the team in the huddle, ‘I’m going to put these down and we just get back on defense and let’s get a stop and let’s get out of here.”
Somehow, after all his early struggles, Quickley managed a team-high 17 points to extend his streak of double-figure performances to 14 games.
“Teammates keep telling me to shoot,” Quickley said. “Coaches keep telling me to shoot. They instill a lot of confidence in me, which helps me get a lot of confidence in myself. Really, that’s all. Work hard, so when I miss one or miss 10 like I did today – I think I was like 1 for 10 – you just keep shooting. Eventually one gotta fall.”
Quickley was hardly the lone Wildcat to struggle with his shot Saturday, as UK made only 2 of 22 from 3-point range against Ole Miss. The Cats were also shooting just 15 of 44 (34.1%) from the field before Quickley finally found the range and they closed by making 8 of 15.
“I’ll say it again, these kids are not computers and they’re not robots,” Calipari said. This is not a fantasy league; this is not on a computer. This is real stuff. They don’t play great every night. But you can play to win. You don’t have to play great every night, and you can get pushed around for three quarters of the game, but the last part of the game you play to win. What does this team need me to do?”
With shots rarely falling, UK relied on its defense to hang around. The Cats held an Ole Miss team that had won three straight and averaged more than 78 points in doing so to 40% shooting and 0.939 points per possession.
Thanks to that effort and Quickley heating up late, UK won yet another close game. By no means did the Cats play to their full potential, but they won anyway. They know a deep March run will require more performances like that.
“That’s really what I think the tournament is all about,” Quickley said. “You want to be at your best when tournament time comes, but we hear all the stories about a bad shooting night in the tournament and you lose a game. Just knowing that we can still win games even when we’re not shooting. Our defense can come through for us and travel.”
A post shared by Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@kentuckymbb) on Feb 15, 2020 at 5:50pm PST