The Kentucky Wildcats weren’t quite able to avenge last season’s six-point loss to the Kansas Jayhawks out in Lawrence. They fell by six again yesterday in an absolutely amped up Rupp Arena. A lot of the fixable things that head coach John Calipari has been talking about lately weren’t able to be overcome. Turnovers, toughness.
Cal said Kansas “out toughed” the Cats at crucial points in the game when the outcome was still hanging in the balance. Kentucky has also gotten sloppy with the rock of late as evidenced by their 17 turnovers.
These things undo the good things Kentucky has done in the first halves of games. The Cats had an early lead at Tennessee and weren’t able to capitalize on adding to it and putting further separation between themselves and the Vols.
Kentucky held a 12-point first half lead on two occasions (23-11 and 29-17) against the Jayhawks. At the half the lead had been trimmed to five and no doubt Kansas felt fortunate to be down 32-27 at the half.
The second half began with Kansas’ Josh Jackson making a statement with back-to-back three-pointers for six of his 20 points in the opening minute. Just like that, Kentucky found themselves down by one.
Derek Willis valiantly did his best to keep Kentucky in it as the lead flipped back and forth between the two teams. He had 11 of his 18 points in the second half. In the end Kansas proved to be too much and even forged a double-digit lead themselves at 69-59. Kentucky’s last lead was 59-58 at the 8:13 mark.
Obviously, it wasn’t the outcome Big Blue fans wanted to see. That said, Rupp Arena showed up and showed out from College Game Day in the early morning to the final horn at game’s end.
Everybody was there. The big game atmosphere did not disappoint. I watched the game in the tunnel just beyond the Kansas bench with Cameron Mills, maker of The Shot Heard Around the Bluegrass.
Former Cat Winston Bennett was there, it was cool to be able to talk to him. Mark Stoops came by and watched from this vantage point for a while.
Kenny “Sky” Walker was there and dressed to the nines. His suit was cleaner than clean.
— Vinny Hardy (@VinnyHardy) January 29, 2017
Kenny was just as cool and gracious in person as he is when you hear him on the radio or see him on TV. He also said that for the next game, “I’ll be back in comfortable jeans and a T-shirt.”
Larry Brown, the only coach to win a title in both college and the NBA, was in the house too. He had been watching the game upstairs in the media room but left because he was too nervous. When I asked him why he said it was “because he cared so much for both coaches” having had both Cal and Bill Self as assistants.
College GameDay’s Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg would stroll trough back and forth from time to time.
For veteran, seasoned members of the media this is no doubt something that they have probably grown accustomed to. For me, it was a blast. The game didn’t go Kentucky’s way but it was still a fun afternoon and evening at Rupp Arena.