Despite a slow start, the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats opened SEC play with a home victory as they took down the Missouri Tigers 71-59 at Rupp Arena.
In the first 10 minutes of action Saturday, only one Wildcat found the scoreboard. Nick Richards scored each of the Cats’ first nine points, but it was enough to give his team an early lead.
Missouri’s offense got off to a hot start as Kobe Brown scored five points, and both Xavier Pinson and Javon Picket scored three to give the Tigers an early 17-9 lead.
The Tigers lead would be short-lived as Richards monster first half continued with five more points to help Kentucky cut the lead to one with 8:48 left in the opening half. Then, Immanuel Quickley would give the Cats the lead with a three-ball to make it a 10-0 UK run and 19-17 Kentucky lead.
Kentucky would lead by as many as eight as they closed out the first half on a 22-9 run to take a 31-26 lead into the halftime locker rooms.
Missouri would keep the game tight to open the second half as they cut the Kentucky lead to three, but Quickley’s third three-pointer of the afternoon extended the Wildcat lead back to six at 34-28 with 17:19 left to play.
The Cats would continue to extend their lead later in the half as Quickley nailed another three-pointer and then a pair of free-throws to give Kentucky their largest lead of the afternoon at 41-31 with 14 minutes to play.
Quickley would continue to grow UK’s lead as he hit another pair of free-throws, and Nate Sestina added a two to put Kentucky up by 13.
Up 10 with 6:03 to play, the Wildcats started to put the game away. Both Ashton Hagans and Quickley hit a pair of free-throws, and Richards nailed a jumper as the Cats took a 16 point lead with 4:38 to play.
While Kentucky was able to close out the win, it did not come without a price. In the games final minutes Hagans exited the game and was holding his Achilles.
Ashton Hagans injury to the back of his lower leg. pic.twitter.com/j0FenMoyCR
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) January 4, 2020
With the win, Kentucky is now 10-3 (1-0) on the season. Their next game will be Tuesday when they travel south to take on the Georgia Bulldogs (10-3).