Missouri falls to Kentucky in conference opener

Nick Richards torched the Tigers as Kentucky pulled away for the victory.

In Saturday afternoon’s battle of the post players, Kentucky came out on top.

Missouri’s Jeremiah Tilmon wasn’t in his normal spot in the starting lineup while recovering from a foot injury. When he entered the game with 15:55 left in the first half, it took the junior exactly ten seconds to pick up his first foul of the game. It was a sign of what was to come. He ended with 7 points as foul trouble limited him to just eight minutes and two field goal attempts.

Kentucky got on the board in the first half on an alley-oop to senior Nick Richards. Richards scored UK’s first 9 points and finished with 21 on 9-13 shooting to go with 12 rebounds and four blocks as the Wildcats (10-3, 1-0 SEC) beat Missouri (8-5, 0-1 SEC) 71-59 in both teams’ first conference game of the year.

Missouri hadn’t allowed more than 56 points in over a month heading into the game. The stout defense continued against the Wildcats. Redshirt junior guard Dru Smith picked up a steal on the first possession of the game, leading to a Kobe Brown 3-pointer on the other end for the first points of the game. Kentucky’s next two possessions ended with a Mitchell Smith steal and a block by Reed Nikko. The Wildcats ended the game with 13 turnovers.

With just over ten minutes left in the first half, Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey made a layup — UK’s first non-Richards points of the game — to make the score 17-11 in favor of Missouri. The basket kicked off a 12-0 run for Kentucky, who wouldn’t trail again the rest of the game.

After a quiet first half, Kentucky sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley heated up, scoring 11 of his team-leading 23 points in the first seven minutes of the second half. While the six-foot-eleven Richards did most of his damage from inside, Quickley relied mainly on 3-pointers — he shot 4-8 from beyond the arc — and free throws, on which he was 9-9 for the afternoon. Kentucky as a whole shot 27-30 from the charity stripe.

Missouri’s perimeter shooters, however, never really got going. Dru Smith shot 5-13 from the field while Javon Pickett and Mark Smith shot a combined 4-15.

Missouri will be back in action for its first home Southeastern Conference game against Tennessee on Tuesday.

Edited by Eli Hoff | ehoff@themaneater.com

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