Fight and finish.
Those are the two words UK coach John Calipari has been preaching all season so far for to his young Wildcats. That showed defensively on Saturday night in the Cats' 83-52 victory over the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights.
That "fight" was seen defensively. The Knights’ 52-point performance was the second lowest UK has allowed this season, previously allowing 49 points to Eastern Kentucky in the second game of the season. Kentucky held Fairleigh Dickinson (2-6) to a stagnant 32% shooting percentage from the field, including a 5-24 clip from behind the arc.
The rebounding dominance continued for Kentucky as this contest was the fifth straight game the Wildcats have out-rebounded their opponent. UK grabbed 11 more defensive boards than the Knights and led the end total by a decent margin (42-33).
The trio of Nick Richards (9), EJ Montgomery (5), and Keion Brooks Jr. (3) led the way by grabbing 17 of the teams 30 defensive boards for the night. The three bigs clogged up the paint, stifling most driving attempts resulting in a plethora of contested shots for the Knights. Despite Montgomery having a second straight career night with 25 points on highly efficient shooting, he added that he's "running down the court" and that "the ball lands in my hands for a wide open layup” regarding Ashton Hagans’ passing ability.
His best work, however, may have been done with his back facing the basket. He was one rebound away from recording the first double-double of the season for him, and only the second of his career, his lone being against South Carolina last season. He also added two blocks and a steal in the contest. It’s the second straight game for him with two blocks.
Richards was able to attain a double-double by amassing 10 rebounds and 12 points. The 6-foot-11 center Richards had control of the paint like Montgomery, tallying two blocks as well.
Brooks added another five rebounds for the Wildcats in only 14 minutes of action. Along with a career high in points with 15, he recorded both a steal and block with a couple big defensive stops underneath the basket. He says that Calipari "has been pushing him to make this sort of effort."
“He wants me to play harder every possession. Coming from high school, I wasn’t required to have fight and play hard each and every possession. It’s just been a learning curve for me, but I’m getting used to it," Brooks said.
Hagans, along with his own double-double, strapped up on defense with two steals on the night to help increase his steals per game average for the year and rattled the FDU ball carriers at times.