The annual Big XII-SEC Challenge once again found Kentucky facing the Kansas Jayhawks in a Top 10 matchup (UK #8, KU #9). College Game Day was held earlier in the day with a very healthy and boisterous crowd in attendance. The University of Kentucky cheerleaders were going to be honored for their 24th National Championship they won this past weekend. Select members of the 2019 Citrus Bowl Champion Wildcats were going to show off their trophy. And for the first time in AGES, Rupp Arena was filled to the rafters well before tipoff. This had all the makings of a fantastic college basketball matchup.
Things got a little dicey in the early going when Kansas managed to build a 10-point lead at the 9:45 mark in the first half. The Cats were unable to make a three-point basket (0-8 for the half) and for a while, it appeared the Jayhawks were going to blow the game wide open.
Reid Travis had other ideas, however. With 12 points and 6 rebounds in the first half, Travis seemingly put the Cats on his back and carried them to within 3 points by the end of the half. While other Cats struggled to score, PJ Washington was a monster on the boards, pulling down 9 rebounds in the first half (13 for the game).
Indeed, the first half was a bit odd. When you looked at the stat sheet, one would think the Cats should be ahead. They led in rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks and had 3 fewer fouls. Each team had 13 made field goals, but KU’s three triples are what accounted for the 3-point advantage.
When the Cats took the floor for the second half, however, it was a brand new ball game. In less than 2 minutes, Calipari’s Cats turned a 3-point deficit into a 2-point lead, and though Kansas managed to tie the Cats on 3 occasions, Kentucky never trailed again, ultimately winning by a score of 71-63.
Credit should go to Kansas for playing a solid game, specifically Dedric Lawson. Recording a double-double (20 points, 15 rebounds), he proved to be a formidable challenge for the Cats. Having several players to rotate on defending Lawson ultimately wore him down according to Coach Bill Self. Quentin Grimes and Lagerald Vick also scored in double figures (13 and 10 respectively). But the Cats absolutely owned the boards, outrebounding the Jayhawks 49-36.
The win moved the Cats to 16-3 (5-1) and Kentucky is now 5-0 versus the current AP Top 25 since the opening game loss
Coach Bill Self’s post-game remarks:
Coach Cal’s post-game remarks:
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