6:34:25 UKvsGTMBB2019

Kentucky freshman forward Keion Brooks Jr. fights for the ball during the Kentucky vs Georgia Tech basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 67-53. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

The Kentucky Wildcats grabbed their eighth win of the season Saturday with a 67-53 win over Georgia Tech, moving to 8-1 on the season. Here’s three quick takeaways from the day:

Keion Brooks is finding his rhythm

The 6-foot-7 forward posted his third double-digit game of the season and his second in a row. Brooks came off the bench and totaled 10 points, four rebounds an assist and a block in 26 minutes against the Yellow Jackets Saturday, a week after his career-high 15 points against Fairleigh Dickinson. UK head coach John Calipari attributes Brooks’ improvement to his “fight.” 

“He's a skilled basketball player," Calipari said. "I even saw him stay in front of people where we were getting beat on the dribble -- No. 5 (Moses Wright) beat us on the dribble with everybody else who played him and he didn't get around Keion. I was proud of him.”

Teammate Ashton Hagans says he’s seen a difference in the way Brooks has been playing, especially the way he conducts himself in practice. 

“He’s one of the first guys out there on the floor, he’s working his ass off in practice, off the court, in the gym all the time, but he’s one of the young guys that we need a lot and he’s stepping into his role,” Hagans said. 

UK bigs were less impactful on the boards

With graduate transfer Nate Sestina still out with a wrist injury, the duo of Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery started for the Wildcats for the third straight game. Montgomery totaled just three rebounds, his second lowest of the season, and didn’t score in his 20 minutes of play. 

While Richards did post a double-digit scoring game (12) and notched an impressive four blocks, he grabbed just four rebounds, tied for his lowest of the season. In the past two games when Richards and Montgomery have both been in the starting lineup, they’ve combined for at least 17 rebounds. 

Calipari says he’s holding Richards accountable and thinks the 6-foot-11 sophomore has the potential to be “the best big man in the country.”

“But, look, at the end of the day, we need to get Nate back,” Calipari said. “Nick has reverted, he reverted in practice. And what he did was he got lazy with catches. Did you see him fumble passes in the post today? He got lazy with catches. He started rebounding with one. Wasn't playing with the energy that he had been playing with. And so this is what you get, this kind of game.”

Sestina has transitioned out of a hard cast on his wrist, and is wearing more of a softer air cast now. At the beginning of this past week, Calipari said he thought Sestina was still about a week away from shedding the cast. 

Despite a low scoring night, Maxey finds ways to contribute

Saturday marked another struggling offensive night for freshman Tyrese Maxey, who went 0-for-9 from the floor and 0-for-3 from beyond the arc, scoring all six of his points from the free throw line. However, the guard made up for it in other ways. He totaled a career-high seven rebounds, a career-high-tying six assists and added two steals against the Yellow Jackets.

“He'll text me, keep coaching me, man,” Calipari said. “Keep coaching me. And believe me, I'm, like, people that have watched us in practice know I'm just holding him to a high standard and holding him accountable.”

Calipari and his coaching staff went a three-guard lineup, starting Hagans, Maxey and Immanuel Quickley. 

You can read the Kernel's full story on UK's guard play against Georgia Tech here.