The 2019 Kentucky Men’s Basketball Blue-White Game is now in the books.
After the White team came out on top with a tight 81-80 win on Friday night in what was a raucous environment of 13,574 fans at Rupp Arena – yes you read that right – here are the top four takeaways from that game:
1. Nate Sestina can really shoot from downtown
A liberal arts education isn’t the only thing Sestina brought over from Bucknell University.
The forward also brought over a hot three-point shooting hand. He made quite the first impression for Cats fans on Friday night as he led all scorers in three-pointers made and was second in total points scored, shooting 4-for-8 from downtown with 22 total points.
“When you see a couple shots go in, the rim gets bigger and so does your confidence. Getting the ball in the hoop got my confidence going and, then, seeing my teammates make plays and doing the same thing, it kind of got everyone going,” Sestina said after the game.
But those numbers can’t be surprising. Last year, he was second in scoring on his team at Bucknell with 15.8 points-per-game and shot 38% from downtown. SEC crowds certainly can’t be compared to his former Patriot League crowds, but Sestina seems to be handling the change just fine.
2. Immanuel Quickley is much more confident
The young, sly guard definitely lived up to his last name Friday night.
Quickley only started seven games for UK last year, but he looked like a viable starter on Friday night. He topped all scorers in total points with 25 and did so through his speed and agility. Whether his scores came from sneaky layups, mid-range jump-shots or three-pointers, he looked much more confident than last year.
Don’t believe me? He said it himself after the game.
“My confidence level is increased. You know, when I make a mistake, I don’t think about it too much. If I miss a shot, I’ll shoot the same shot the next dime down. And if I miss that one, I’ll shoot the next shot same time down again. I just play through mistakes and misses,” Quickley said.
Head coach John Calipari see’s the same difference too.
“You’re all seeing what I’ve been telling you, he’s not even the same guy as he was a year ago,” Calipari said.
3. Rupp Arena is Tyrese Maxey’s realm
Maxey isn’t in Dallas, Texas anymore.
Instead, the freshman guard has found a potential second home in Rupp Arena. After Maxey had the lights on him in a game at Rupp for the first time, he looked like he responded with a “lights, camera, action” mentality.
He was the top scoring freshman with 17 points, ahead of Johnny Juzang and Brennan Canada. Poster dunks, alley-oops and a buzzer beater fadeaway at the end of the first half all went together with smiles on his face. While a scrimmage is certainly far from the real task, he looks like he’ll be pumping out the same energy this season.
“If you’re not having fun, then why are you doing this?” Maxey said. “It was a lot of fun playing in front of Big Blue Nation. I had a lot of fun, the energy in the gym was amazing, and the competition was really good. wasn’t even tired tonight.”
4. Nick Richards is looking into the front view mirror
Richards was in the driver’s seat Friday night.
The veteran center handled business right out of the gate. He scored the White team’s first six points of the night and finished the night with 20. He looked much more aggressive and unapologetic in the paint. Whether it was through his slam dunks or hard-fought team-high 11 rebounds, a double-double is not a bad way to move forward and let go of what wasn’t a fond season last year.
But despite Richards’ success, Calipari says this is all part of the learning experience.
“I told the guys after, ‘Look, I'm going to learn about you, but you've got to learn about yourself, too. Some of you guys have to know the way I'm trying to get you to play, you fought it a little bit, and you turned it over and lost balls and missed shots. You've got to understand that you have to look at it and don't blame anybody. Look within and say, OK, I've got to do this a little different,’” Calipari said.