LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Nick Richards carried the load for No. 17 Kentucky before Immanuel Quickley finished the job for the Wildcats.
Quickley scored a career-high 23 points, Nick Richards had 21 and Kentucky beat Missouri 71-59 Saturday in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools.
Richards scored 14 of the Wildcats’ first 16 points and had 17 by halftime, including a key 3-point play. Quickley’s 3 put Kentucky (10-3, 1-0) ahead to stay, and he was just getting started.
Quickley was 4 of 8 from behind the arc and 5 of 9 overall. He also went 9 for 9 at the line, part of a 27-for-30 performance for Kentucky as a team.
Richards went 9 for 13 from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double. The junior forward also blocked four shots before fouling out with 3:52 left.
In between blocking shots and grabbing rebounds, Richards worked his way free for scoring opportunities, including a few jumpers.
Kentucky posted its second straight victory since consecutive losses to Utah and Ohio State. But the Wildcats lost point guard Ashton Hagans with 1:48 left after he hurt his left ankle while playing defense.
Hagans finished with seven points, seven assists and five rebounds. Coach John Calipari said it was a low sprain instead of an Achilles tendon tear that he initially feared.
Missouri (8-5, 0-1) cut a 16-point deficit down to 56-46 with 6:03 remaining. The Wildcats answered with a 6-0 spurt to help close it out.
Dru Smith had 11 points and Kobe Brown nine for Missouri, which had won four in a row. The Tigers shot 36% and were outrebounded 36-31.
Missouri: The Tigers’ quest for their first-ever Rupp Arena win began well enough as their defense aggressively denied inside chances while their shooters delivered from outside. That physical game also helped put Kentucky on the line often, resulting in a huge disparity on free throws. They didn’t have an answer for Richards, who was free on most of his opportunities.
Kentucky: The Wildcats started sluggishly after a week off, missing six of seven shots while allowing the Tigers to make shots from deep. Richards was the steadying presence on both ends, but especially with the ball, converting a pair of 3-point plays to keep them in the game before Quickley delivered from deep. Freshman guard Johnny Juzang was sidelined by an illness, leaving them with just eight scholarship players, and the roster might be even shorter depending on Hagans’ status.
Missouri hosts Tennessee on Tuesday night.
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