Kentucky got the best out of Immanuel Quickley once again in its biggest moments, as he went a sizzling 5-of-6 from behind the arc to give the Cats a 76-67 win over SEC West-foe Alabama. It was the fourth straight game with double digit points for the second-year guard, who credits his faith and work ethic for his strong performances.
“Trusting in God, he’s been giving me a lot of confidence,” he said. “Putting a lot of work in, extra hours in the gym.”
With the Crimson Tide inching closer, down just three after climbing back from what was a fifteen-point deficit early in the second half, Quickley’s number was called. He answered by knocking down a three to double the margin. Then, with one-minute left, he provided a corner three to make it a seven-point game. The Rupp Arena crowd erupted as the ball whipped through the net, knowing the dagger had been served.
“There are 353 Division I teams. They were 351st in percentage of points coming from three, so you don’t think they’re gonna kill you from three,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “With [Quickley] shooting like that, it’s a completely different team.”
“If he shoots five of six from three, I don’t know who’s better in the country.”
The sophomore from Maryland hit his first three treys of the day, which gave him eight in a row dating back to the second half against Missouri. Overall, he has shot 12-of-17 (70.5 percent) from deep in the new year.
“[I’m] steaming hot,” he smiled. “If you touch me, you might burn.”
His efficiency hasn’t been limited to the offensive end. He played a big role in limiting Jordan Nwora when Louisville came to town, and his effort today contributed to Alabama’s season-worst performance from behind the arc. The way he and fellow guards Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey have been playing, he’s not sure there’s a better backcourt in the country.
“If there is, we haven’t seen it yet,” he said. “With me, Ashton, Tyrese, you got something that you can play defense, switch one two and three. We can all make shots, get to the rim, can pass… I think we are probably the most versatile backcourt.”
The win moved Kentucky to 12-3 overall and 3-0 in SEC play. Alabama is 8-7 (1-2 SEC) following the loss. The two schools do not have another meeting this regular season, but could meet in the SEC Tournament, which Coach Calipari didn’t sound too keen on potentially doing.
“There is no one that wants to play Alabama right now,” he said. “If we have to play them again, it will be in the [SEC] tournament, and I will dread that if we have to.”
The Crimson Tide return home on Wednesday to play in-state rival and still undefeated Auburn, who is up to No. 5 in the nation. Kentucky heads to South Carolina to battle the Gamecocks the same evening. Tip is set for 6:30 on SEC Network.