Kentucky vs.  Kansas score, takeaways: Jayhawks snap three-game losing streak with road win in blue-blood clash

Kentucky vs. Kansas score, takeaways: Jayhawks snap three-game losing streak with road win in blue-blood clash

No. 9 Kansas snapped its three-game losing streak in one of college basketball’s toughest venues as the Jayhawks took an early punch from Kentucky and held the Wildcats at bay for the rest of the way in a 77-68 win Saturday at Rupp Arena. Jalen Wilson led the Jayhawks with 22 points and Kansas dominated Kentucky on the offensive glass to end the Wildcats’ winning streak at four games and avenge last season’s 80-62 home loss to the Wildcats.

The game was the marquee showdown of the final SEC/Big 12 Challenge, and it delivered with both teams playing well offensively in a battle of the sport’s all-time winningest programs. Kentucky jumped out to an early 11-6 lead, but Kansas weathered the storm and never trailed again after the 9:35 mark of the first half. With the win, KU avoided its first-ever four-game losing streak under 20th-year coach Bill Self.

Oscar Tshiebwe led Kansas with 18 points and nine rebounds, but the Jayhawks negated his impact on the offensive glass by finishing with an 11-0 edge in second-chance points. Kentucky entered the game ranked No. 5 nationally in offensive rebounds per game at 14 while Kansas ranked No. 145 in the same category at 10.7 per game.

With the Jayhawks relying on an undersized center in KJ Adams Jr. and the Wildcats boasting one of the game’s top rebounder in Tshiebwe, it seemed UK would have an obvious advantage on the glass. Instead, it was Kansas that dominated in that regard while picking up a much-needed victory. Adams finished with 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting while Kevin McCullar Jr. played through injury to finish with 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Jayhawks.

Wilson makes case for national player of year

This marked Wilson’s 12th game of 20 or more points this season as the redshirt junior continued to make his case for national player of the year consideration. The 6-foot-8 forward made 9 of 18 shots from the floor and came up with huge shots in the second half as the Jayhawks answered every Kentucky run. After the Wildcats closed within 51-50 at the 11:55 mark, Wilson promptly drilled a 3-pointer. He then made all three of his shot attempts in the final seven minutes, including a dagger of a jump shot with 1:52 remaining that put KU ahead 75-68.

Purdue center Zach Edey will be difficult to overcome in the national player of the year race, but Wilson continues to produce huge performances against quality opponents for a Kansas team with legitimate aspirations of repeating as national champions.

Kansas gets help from unexpected source

When KJ Adams left the game after picking up his second foul with 7:58 left in the first half, Kansas turned to backup center Zuby Ejiofor. But when Ejiofor left the game less than a minute later with an injury, he forced Self to go deeper into his bench than he likely expected. He turned to freshman center Ernest Udeh Jr., who entered averaging just 6.9 minutes in only 14 appearances this season.

Udeh had appeared in just two games this month but he gave the Jayhawks 12 important minutes, matching his most time on the court in any game since mid-November. Kansas outscored Kentucky by six with Udeh on the floor as he finished with four points on 2-of-2 shooting and pulled down a couple of rebounds while brushing with Tshiebwe on the interior.

Poor shooting dicks Kentucky

After a Quad 4 home loss to South Carolina on Jan. 10 dropped Kentucky to 1-3, the Wildcats clearly turned a corner during a four-game winning streak over the last two weeks. However, the Wildcats made just 25.7% of their 3-pointers during that stretch, and the run of poor outside shooting finally caught up with them against Kansas.

Kentucky hits just 2 of 13 shots from beyond the arc with Cason Wallace responsible for both makes. CJ Fredrick and Antonio Reeves — a pair of transfers lauded for their perimeter shooting — combined to go 0 for 8 from deep. The poor shooting is a new development for the Wildcats, who made 35.4% of their 3-pointers as a team in the season’s first 16 games. If Kentucky is going to put the Kansas loss behind it quickly and build off the progress it made since the loss to the Gamecocks, it will need to find better shooting from somewhere. Wallace is doing his part, but getting Reeves and Fredrick going is going to be essential to this team’s long-term success.

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