No. 8 Kentucky rolls FDU, earns 600th win at Rupp Arena
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — EJ Montgomery has worked to create offensive opportunities, so he wasn’t too shocked by the plentiful chances he got against Fairleigh Dickinson.
Those looks culminated in a personal scoring best for the Kentucky forward and propelled the No. 8 Wildcats toward a milestone win in their historic home arena.
Montgomery scored a career-high 25 points, forward Keion Brooks added 15 off the bench and Kentucky dominated Fairleigh Dickinson 83-52 on Saturday for its 600th victory at Rupp Arena.
The 6-foot-10 sophomore made 12 of 16 from the field, including several dunks to surpass his previous scoring best of 16 on Nov. 29 against UAB. Montgomery also had nine rebounds, a block and a steal, demonstrating his growing comfort zone in five games since after missing the previous three with a sprained right ankle.
“After I made my first shot, I just felt confident out there and just tried to compete,” Montgomery said. “My mindset was just this is my game, go out there and show and do what I do.”
Forward Nick Richards, at 6-11, had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats (7-1), whose 19-2 run over 6:11 in the first half built a 43-23 halftime lead. Kentucky shot 52% and held the Knights (2-6) to 33% shooting, outrebounded them 42-33 and owned nearly statistic for their fifth consecutive victory after a week off.
The Wildcats became the fastest school to reach 600 wins in an arena in NCAA history. Kentucky achieved the milestone at the 43-year-old building named after coach Adolph Rupp in 670 games, surpassing the pace of UCLA (689 games at Pauley Pavilion) and Kansas (699 at Allen Fieldhouse).
Kentucky coach John Calipari seemed grateful for the advantages Rupp has provided in building a 173-10 mark there — and even more appreciative of the history.
“This is a unique place,” he said. “I’m blessed that I even had the opportunity. … I don’t know how many we’ve won in this building, whatever that is, but I’m glad we’ve played a part of it.”
Kentucky’s latest home win also had plenty of contributors.
Ashton Hagans had 11 points and 11 assists, and the sophomore guard has averaged nine assists over his past five games. Freshman Johnny Juzang had four points, three rebounds and two steals in 23:27.
“I just wished we showed up,” FDU coach Greg Herenda said. “That’s just not who our team is, but Kentucky had a lot to do with it.”
Keion Brooks made his first two shots in the first half but saved his best for the second, making 4 of 7 with five rebounds, a block and a steal while playing 16 minutes. He seemed unfazed by his performance because Calipari has stressed the importance of putting forth the effort.
“Coming from high school, I wasn’t required to have to fight and play hard each and every possession,” he said. “It’s just been a learning curve for me, but I’m getting used to it.”
Fairleigh Dickinson: The Knights couldn’t follow up their 50% shooting against Quinnipiac beyond the first couple of baskets as Kentucky’s defense disrupted their flow. They certainly were no match against the taller Wildcats inside, resulting in lopsided gaps in rebounding and paint scoring (28-12) respectively.
Kentucky: The Wildcats emerged from the week-long break sharper and crisper, especially on defense. At times there were three players battling for rebounds, and they forced eight turnovers in the first half alone. Montgomery’s growing offensive confidence showed with several jumpers and aggression inside. Brooks, a freshman forward, took off in the second half for a career high as well.
This victory likely won’t change Kentucky’s position in the rankings.
Fairleigh Dickinson visits St. Peter’s on Wednesday.
Kentucky hosts Georgia Tech on Dec. 14 as it faces Power Five opponents for the remainder of the season.