Red-Hot Quickley Unleashes Another Second-Half Barrage
Immanuel Quickley always has vocal support inside Rupp Arena, but no one – possibly save for Quickley’s own family – was a bigger fan than John Wall.
Sitting courtside in an emotional return to Lexington on Saturday, Wall – the player who helped revitalize Kentucky basketball a decade ago – was visibly and loudly behind Quickley.
Quickley gave his favorite Kentucky player of all time plenty of reason to cheer.
In a performance that would have been more remarkable if weren’t the recent norm for him, Quickley scored 26 points to lead No. 10/10 Kentucky (22-5, 12-2 Southeastern Conference) to a 65-59 victory over Florida (17-10, 9-5 SEC) on Saturday. Twenty-two of his points came after halftime.
“When my team needs me, I try to provide them that spark,” Quickley said. “The guys are always good with, ‘Come on, Immanuel. Come on, Quick. We need you. We need you.’ Things like that. This team’s been great with that and I’m just thankful for my teammates.”
Quickley was relatively quiet in the first half in scoring four points on just 1-of-6 shooting. That prompted John Calipari to find Quickley at halftime and demand he let it fly. It was a different story immediately, as Quickley scored 15 of UK’s first 19 second-half points. That included a two-minute barrage when Quickley buried three straight 3-pointers, drawing progressively more excited reactions from Wall each time.
“I think I had made two in a row and then in transition Ashton (Hagans) had found me,” Quickley said. “I told myself, ‘There’s no way I’m passing this. There’s no way I’m dribbling this. I’m just going to catch it and let it go.’ “
Coach Cal didn’t react so exuberantly in the moment, but he did take a shot at coining a campaign catchphrase for Quickley on the same day the eRUPPtion Zone held #PickNick signs touting Nick Richards as an All-America candidate. “I’m with IQ,” Calipari pitched.
“He played amazing tonight,” Richards said. “He made every shot. When we needed a basket, we’d just run to him. He made really tough 3s. His overall game tonight, he just played amazing.”
His last 3-pointer came with 94 seconds left, with Quickley getting a shooter’s roll to extend Kentucky’s lead to eight points. That seemed safe at the time, but Florida rallied furiously with six points in less than a minute and generated three turnovers with its press to create some nervous moments late.
Tyrese Maxey and, of course, Quickley made four free throws to close it out. With those two free throws, Quickley is now 30 of 31 at the line in the final three minutes of regulation and overtime of two-possession games.
“He was fantastic,” Florida head coach Mike White said. “He was the best player on the floor. He did a great job finding space, searching. They did a good job finding him. Hit huge shots and complemented that with terrific defense on the perimeter.”
Quickley was key to holding Florida’s Noah Locke scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting. The sophomore sharpshooter had scored 51 points and made 14-of-22 3-pointers during a three-game Florida winning streak snapped Saturday.
Meanwhile, Quickley added another game to his double-figure scoring streak, which now stands at 16. He has topped 20 points in seven of those games now, but never had he reached the 25-point mark. Calipari noted as much after the LSU game, pointing out that four of Quickley’s teammates had.
“It happened pretty quick,” Quickley said. “I wasn’t pressing to get it, but I just happened to get it tonight.”
All of Quickley’s scoring and clutch plays have thrust him into the conversation for SEC Player of the Year and All-America honors. He’s not so worried about all that.
“Honestly, it’s not really my concern,” Quickley said. “I’d just be happy if my team wins the national championship. That’s really what we’re trying to accomplish. Just trying to continue to build for March and try to win this national championship.”