Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats hose down another SEC foe looking to burn UK

Visiting Kentucky Wildcats fans cheer (Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports)
Visiting Kentucky Wildcats fans cheer (Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Kentucky basketball
Keion Brooks Jr. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Keion Brooks stepping up in the spotlight not shying away from the limelight

In six of Kentucky’s seven games after the New Year, junior Keion Brooks Jr.’s stats were just mediocre and only reached double figures once against Georgia.

But in the Wildcats’ past five games including South Carolina, he has rung up double-digit points, taken better shots, been more aggressive yet patient, and more importantly given UK a strong presence at the No. 4 spot in the lineup.

Those numbers include 12 points against Mississippi State; 27 against Kansas; 20 against Vanderbilt; 10 in a win over Alabama and then Tuesday win over the Gamecocks.

He and Toppin have become consistent contributing forces at a roster spot that appeared at least on paper and in Big Blue Nation’s eyes a position of weakness and concern.

You can close the book on that issue.

Against the Gamecocks, Brooks went for 15 points, snared nine rebounds, and as usual a force in the paint and around the glass. He no longer drifts out and steps back for long two-pointers, instead of moving a few steps closer for better looks.

John Calipari was asked about Brooks after the game.

"“What he’s doing and how he’s playing, the decision he made to come back was a man’s decision. He made a man’s decision to come back. How he’s playing right now, that’s where he should be. And he’s doing it at Kentucky. … I’m so proud of him.”"

When Tshiebwe was struggling Brooks was there to pick up the slack from outside crashing not only the glass but into one Gamecock player after another. They definitely felt his presence even when he got whistled for fouls.

That kind of effort won’t get you yanked to the Kentucky bench instead it draws heaps of praise from Calipari.

He said after the game that his buddy Toppin would be fine just needed some time to heal. For Kentucky to survive the rest of the SEC and the madness of March they need both Brooks and Toppin playing healthy.