For the seventh time in fifteen games, Immanuel Quickley had over twenty points. The 26 he provided Saturday set a new career high as he paced No. 10 Kentucky’s 65-59 win over rival Florida.
“He was fantastic… the best player on the floor,” Gator coach Mike White said. “[He] hit huge shots and complemented that with terrific perimeter defense.”
It was the fourth time this season Quickley has scored a career-high, previously doing so against Eastern Kentucky (16), then-No. 3 Louisville (18) and Missouri (23). Today also marked his fourth game with four or more threes.
“God’s been good, it’s all him,” Quickley said. “My teammates… do a great job of finding me, especially in spots in transition.”
His extremely high-level play for the past two months has helped him garner momentum for many accolades, including SEC Player of the Year. Tyrese Maxey wasn’t shy in his feelings about where he believes Quickley and ‘Junior Nick Richards’ stand in that race.
“Hey SEC Player of the Year! SEC Player of the Year!” he yelled to Quickley during the interview session.
Prompted, the sophomore guard quipped back, telling Maxey to “Look in the mirror!” He then lost his train of thought and asked a reporter to repeat his question, bringing quite the laugh to the media members who had swarmed him. A few seconds later, Maxey extended his arms to either side and added “We have Co-SEC Players of the Year!”, not wanting to leave out the Jamaican big man, who was sitting to his left, from his shouting of praise
Kentucky basketball released a campaign video for Richards to be selected as an All-American earlier in the week, inspiring the “Pick Nick” Twitter hashtag and the signs for today’s game. When asked about a potential “Pick Quick” phrase and campaign, he shrugged it off.
“The 'Pick Nick' video was great,” he said. “Maybe I’ll get one soon, but honestly it’s not really my concern.”
What is his concern then?
“The national championship," he said. "That’s really what we’re trying to accomplish. Just trying to continue to build for March and try to win this national championship.”
Just seven days remain before that biggest month of the season, and Kentucky is sitting pretty. The Cats are two games clear of second place in the conference, and a single win away from clinching the ever-valuable double-bye for the SEC Tournament. A continued strong showing to end the year could net them a top-two seed. Quickley will be doing whatever he can to get the Cats the banner that has eluded them since 2012, and ring in the new decade with One Shining Moment.