Kentucky seeking improvement against Lamar

The Associated Press

Playing for the second time in three days, No. 9 Kentucky (4-1) will look to run its win streak to three on Sunday when Lamar (4-1) visits Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.

It will be only the second time the Wildcats have been at full strength since the first game of the year after injuries to starters EJ Montgomery and Immanuel Quickley.

Montgomery, who missed three games due to a foot injury, and Quickley, who missed one game with a chest injury, both returned Friday night in an 82-62 rout of Mount Saint Mary's. Montgomery had seven points and six rebounds in 15 minutes while Quickley scored 13 points.

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"Immanuel made shots. Great to have him back," coach John Calipari said Friday. "But the guy that made the difference is EJ. You would have never known he was not playing for a while. I mean, not having him really affects us. Having him, when he's playing, he's a difference maker."

A Kentucky team with Montgomery defeated No. 1 Michigan State to open the season. UK without Montgomery beat Eastern Kentucky, but was shocked at home by Evansville and narrowly defeated Utah Valley before Friday night's blowout victory when he returned to the lineup.

"I told them we got to get through this weekend, then we got one game a week for six weeks," Calipari said. "That's when we start camp, when we're doing some stuff in the mornings. We'll catch up. But I think they all showed some good signs."

Kentucky not only defeated Mount Saint Mary's, but they made improvement in a key statistical area. The Wildcats shot 40 percent from 3-point range, hitting 6 of 15 shots from outside. UK entered the game ranked 346th out of 350 teams nationally at 21.3 percent.

But as 3-point shooting improved, another concern arose on Friday.

"We only get six offensive rebounds. C'mon," Calipari said. "It's not like we made every shot. We shot over 50 percent, but there's still 25 rebounds and you get six. That's not acceptable. It's just not."

Calipari has a simple fix.

"You got to train yourself that every shot we take is a miss, I'm going to go get it," the coach said. "We're working on it. We're doing stuff. Obviously, it's not taking hold.

"I'm telling you, if I get a guy that will offensive rebound, he's staying in the game," Calipari said. "If anybody wants so-and-so to play more, he's given you the answers. Go rebound offensively. That means do not accept being blocked out, fight for every ball, and if you don't get it sprint back."

Kentucky's improved play will be tested on Sunday when Lamar rolls into town.

The teams have two common opponents. UK defeated Mount Saint Mary's 82-62 and Utah Valley 82-74. Lamar defeated Mount Saint Mary's 76-61 and Utah Valley 74-68.

TJ Atwood leads Lamar at 18.0 points per game. Davion Buster checks in at 15.6 and V.J. Holmes at 10.0.

Tyrese Maxey is UK's top scorer at 15.0 points per game. Next are Nick Richards at 14.8, Quickley at 13.8 and Ashton Hagans at 13.4.

The 5-foot-10 Buster is one who could cause trouble for the Wildcats.

"He's a really, really special little player," Lamar coach Tic Price said. "If he was 6-3, 6-4 or 6-5, he'd probably be (playing) in Lexington somewhere."

--Field Level Media

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