6:31:12 Men's Basketball vs. Lamar

Kentucky freshman guard Tyrese Maxey shoots a three pointer during the game against Lamar on Sunday, November 24, 2019 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 81-56. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Tyrese Maxey showed why he’s capable of being Kentucky’s leading scorer.

In his third consecutive career start, Maxey posted a team-high 21-point shooting performance in the ninth-ranked Cats’ 81-56 victory over the Lamar University Cardinals on Sunday evening at Rupp Arena.

That’s the second-highest point total posted by Maxey this season, just five points short of his season-high in the Cats’ season opener against Michigan State at Madison Square Garden.  

“I felt comfortable. Coach Calipari is doing a really good job of making this team gel together. We’re getting better every day,” Maxey said.

Maxey’s hot hand made a noticeable difference just over halfway through the first half. After the Cats began the game with a 15-2 run, the Cardinals tied the game up 19-19 with 8:26 remaining in the first half. Frustrated with his team, UK head coach John Calipari yelled out plays to his troops on the floor.

Seconds later, Maxey got Calipari’s message.

Maxey drained a three to give the Cats the lead back. Things would only get better from there as the Cats went on a 22-2 run for the rest of the first half. During that run, Maxey drained four three-pointers in a 4:12 stretch and finished the night shooting 4-for-6 from downtown. His four 3-pointers made are also a new season-high. 

“It's [his shots] what stretched the game out. Like, those baskets like bang, bang, bang. And he knows, if it's in transition, he can take it,” Calipari said. “Like, if we throw it ahead and he's open in transition, don't drive it, just shoot that ball.  All you got to do is catch it and look at the rim and they're flying at you, now drive in and get somebody a shot, which he started the [second] half doing.”

Those three-pointers that Maxey scored came after he was just 6-for-15 from beyond the arc in his last four games entering Sunday. Maxey wouldn’t score any more three-pointers after the Cats’ aforementioned big run. He did, however, score nine more points in the second half, four of which respectively came off of both a fast-break dunk and a layup.

So then how did Maxey wake up his arm?

“I just stayed with my training, getting shots up at nighttime and in the morning. I’m confident in myself that I can make the next one. Doesn’t matter if I miss or make. I put in too much work to have that kind of thought process that I’ll miss. Everytime I shoot, it starts going in,” Maxey said.

Maxey’s energy and poise seemed to resonate with his teammates. Aside from his scoring, he also garnered a season-high five rebounds and three assists to help the Cats keep pace with Lamar (4-2). The Cats never looked back after Maxey jumpstarted that frenzy first-half run that game them a permanent lead. If you ask Keion Brooks, he says Maxey’s success helped open more doors.

“When he does what he does, it makes it easier for everyone else. His gravity in his 3-point shot moves the defense out. He’s able to get in the lane and make passes to other people, throwing lobs and making those open shots on the perimeter,” Brooks said.

“When he’s got it clicking like that, we just have to keep playing with him.”

With Maxey now averaging a team high 16.2 points-per-game, the Cats (5-1) will get to enjoy some Thanksgiving turkey this week before getting back on their feet to take on the UAB Blazers back at Rupp Arena this Friday at 7 p.m. in the final game of the BBN Showcase.