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Bullied & Blue: No. 12 Kentucky rocks No. 5 Kansas, 80-62 at Allen Fieldhouse

Kentucky forward Lance Ware (55) delivers a jam past Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The 12th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats got everything they wanted in Saturday’s first half against No. 5 Kansas.

And everything they wanted was all they needed in an 80-62 rout of the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse.

No one player summed that up better than Kentucky junior Keion Brooks Jr., who exploded for a game-high 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the floor and nine makes in 10 attempts at the free throw line.

“We went into a couple of different defenses where we were trying to make him beat us; and he beat us,” KU junior Christian Braun said after the loss. “We didn’t want him to shoot wide-open shots, obviously, but if we were going to have anybody shoot the ball, we wanted it to be him and we wanted it to be contested. He got off way too many open looks.”

Related document

Box Score: Kentucky 80, Kansas 62 ( .PDF )

Most of them were no-doubt buckets the minute they left Brooks’ hand. And many of them looked like those that come during shooting drills in practice rather than blue-blood battles on national television.

To put Brooks’ night in perspective, he scored more against Kansas (17-3 overall, 6-1 Big 12) than he did against Texas A&M;, Auburn and Mississippi State in his past three games combined.

“They had real athletes on the court,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after the loss, highlighting the 4 and 5 positions specifically. “Their guys got to a certain level and our guys couldn’t quite get to that level, from an athletic standpoint.”

Brooks wasn’t the only one who hurt the Jayhawks inside on Saturday night.

UK junior Oscar Tshiebwe added 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go along with a game-high 14 rebounds. Those two, combined with the 10-of-13 collective shooting by Kentucky’s Kellan Grady, Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware, put pressure on KU all afternoon and never allowed the Jayhawks to come closer than 14 the rest of the way after falling behind by 15 points midway through the first half and trailing by 20 (51-31) at halftime.

The bottom line on Saturday was simple: When Kentucky got to its spots and took the shots it wanted, Kansas was powerless to stop it. The Jayhawks flashed moments of defensive disruption — most off of various zone looks — but those were too few and far between for KU to keep up.

“It wasn’t the offense,” Self said while breaking down what went wrong. “Offense may not have looked good, but we gave up 51 points at home at halftime. There’s been numerous games we’ve scored 31 points at half and been OK. When you don’t play well, you have to make the other team play poorly and we didn’t do that.”

Despite the constant uphill climb on Saturday, the Jayhawks said they always believed they could get back in it. That was a product of Self’s squad finding a way to win tough, tight games in the past couple of weeks.

“Everybody was thinking we were going to come back, and we had that spark going that we kind of had at the K-State game,” KU senior Ochai Agbaji said of coming back from 19 down at halftime in last Saturday’s win over Kansas State.

Added Braun: “We got there and the crowd got into it. I think everybody on this team just believes there’s nothing that we haven’t seen yet. We’re pretty battle-tested, and we thought we were going to get back in it. And then they hit us again.”

Kentucky controlled things from the start, ripping off an 8-0 run early to grab a 10-5 lead and then extending it from there.

The Jayhawks looked slow, bottled up and, at times, rattled, while Kentucky played free, loose and with a little of that Wildcat swagger that John Calipari’s best teams have been famous for. The Wildcats (17-4 overall, 6-2 SEC) had five uncontested dunks in the first half alone — Brooks had three of them — and, as a result, shot 61.8% from the field in the first 20 minutes.

That, along with a 29-14 run throughout the middle portion of the first half, led to a Kentucky lead that proved to be insurmountable.

Perhaps the one play that best summed up the first half for Kansas came with 6 minutes to play, when Jalen Wilson was bumped on a drive to the basket, which caused his shot to miss. As the two teams battled for possession off the rim, UK’s Ware saved the ball from going out of bounds right off of the face of Mitch Lightfoot.

On the ensuing possession, Toppin picked up the Wildcats’ fourth dunk of the first half — and second in a row — to push the Wildcats’ lead to 39-22. That lead grew to as many as 20 by halftime and 24 in the second half, bringing into question whether the Wildcats, victims of that infamous 150-95 loss to KU in Allen Fieldhouse back in 1989, would join the 2020-21 Texas squad and the 1988-89 Missouri team that beat Kansas by 25 in their own building.

The Jayhawks managed to save face in that area, outscoring Kentucky 31-29 in the second half. But after an and-one in transition by Agbaji cut the UK lead to 62-48 with 13:12 remaining, the Jayhawks did not score again until the 9:10 mark. At that point, both time and score were stacked heavily against the Jayhawks.

The moment that essentially ended all hope and started sending fans to the exits came with just over six minutes remaining, when Grady buried a 3-pointer (his fourth of the night) to push the UK lead back to 19 and TyTy Washington stole the ensuing inbounds pass by Kansas.

Officials stopped the game to check the shot clock and, during the break, the loud and proud group of Kentucky fans in the building belted out the loudest “Go Big Blue, Go Big Blue” chant of the afternoon.

So now the Jayhawks move forward hoping to forget about this one and get back on track in the Big 12 Conference race that they’re currently leading by a half game over Baylor, which also lost in Saturday’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge — 87-78 at Alabama.

At the top of the Jayhawks’ wish list for the games that lie ahead are better rebounding and more competitive fire.

“You want to win every game,” Braun said after the loss. “So we came into this game confident, we thought we were prepared, we were going to play hard, and they punched us in the mouth first.”

Teams that get to where this Kansas team wants to be typically handle that scenario in one of two ways — either they don’t let the opponent swing or they punch back. The Jayhawks did neither on Saturday, leaving Self with one reality above all others after it was over.

“We’re a long ways from our ceiling,” he said.

Next up, Kansas heads to Iowa State to take on the Cyclones (16-5) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hilton Coliseum on ESPN.

Comments

Bj Cassady

Time to start Adams at the 5 spot.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bville Hawk

I don't understand why we went away from the 2-3 zone defense that was fairly effective in helping us cut a 21-22 pt deficit to 14 in the 2nd half. And when we went away from it we went to a triangle and 2 and Brooks wasn't one of the guys we were guarding man and he continued to pour the points in. I wish one of the intrepid JW reporters would ask this question of Coach.

On another topic, I was sitting next to a Kentucky fan and I asked him if they had to wear masks in Rupp. He said no, and I thought how lucky we are in the Peoples Republic of Douglas County Kansas that we don't have to make that heavy decision ourselves. Instead our County Commissioners make it for us! Thank goodness for all seeing, all knowing elected officials that are willing to take on the burden of making our personal decisions.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Matt Tait

Self said Brooks made enough shots against the 2-3 zone to get them out of it. Those things work a few possessions at a time in some games, but with Calipari and athletes like he's got, it's only a matter of time before they stop working. KU got what they could out of it. But let's face it; the Jayhawks may still have lost playing 6-on-5 tonight.

The Triangle-and-2 was also effective for a possession or two, but, in the long run, may have wound up wearing out Agbaji and Harris as much as it helped the KU D.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

LOL @title. Touché. It's a bloody Saturday.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

Good Lord, what a $#!+show that was! Losing to Kentucky sucks, losing at home is terrible. But to lose by 18 and trail by as many as 24 through the course of the game - AT HOME, MIND YOU! - and not show any pulse, effort, or intensity is an unforgiveable offense!

It seems I spoke a tad prematurely in lavishing the Jayhawks with praise for showing toughness against Kansas State and Texas Tech earlier. Where was that toughness tonight? Why couldn't our guys be bothered to show up in the biggest non-conference home game of the year, with 16,300 adoring fans ready to cheer them on? Is it that much to ask that our guys crash the glass and rebound the god-damn ball? At least if you're going to get run out of your own gym, do it in a pandemic-restricted season like last year when only 2,500 fans were allowed in the building to watch you $#!+ the bed against Texas!

As for Bill Self, I wonder what excuse he'll have for this pitiful showing. I thought losses like this weren't supposed to happen this year like they did last year when we repeatedly got our faces caved in by the likes of Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, and Southern California. I thought having faster, more athletic players than what he had last season would cure our ills from the season before. Apparently not if we can't be bothered to show up at home against Kentucky. Games like today serve as further evidence that (A) allowing him to have a lifetime contract was an enormous mistake that will keep this program from winning another national championship until at least the 2040s, and (B) if we want to win another national title sooner than that, we need new leadership for this program, because the program is as stagnant and predictable as Wheel of Fortune, and Self is not doing what he's getting paid millions of dollars to do.

VOID SELF'S LIFETIME CONTRACT!

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Tom Gillaspie

Gotta agree with you on this Bryce. A little too fat and happy of late. There appear to be a lot of good young coaches that would trade their "eye teeth" to coach at a place like Kansas.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Matt Gauntt

Yes....stagnant program. 3 McDonalds All-Americans coming in next year, We were the odds on favorite to win it all 2 years ago before COVID cancelled everything. Self is #24 on all time wins and I think there is only 5 coaches with a higher winning percentage including Dean Smith, Roy Williams, Adolph Rupp and Mark Few. Yes, he has a higher win percentage than Coach K.

So go ahead and keep putting out the dumbest takes of anyone on this page. Quit pretending to be a KU fan. None of us believe you are.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Barry Weiss

Clearly we need to play with a more free style........... FREE REMY!

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Andy Godwin

You can listen to “coach speak”, repeated nearly verbatim by the players after the loss, that this nationally hyped game against Kentucky meant nothing in the larger scheme of the season. But that is all is it is coach speak to try and not lose his team after an embarrassing loss. Ask the 16,300 plus fans, including a large and vocal contingency of UK fans and ESPN Game Day that the game meant nothing. I had friends and colleagues throughout the country contact me before and during the game. Overall, my response to all was it was “men against boys” – what else can one say.

Bill Self preached up until Saturday and then after the game that in the long run this game had no impact on the Big 12 race. Well, that is obvious coach Self, but underlying those comments was that he likely expected the game would go UK’s way - they are clearly more talented at every position, and they played like a cohesive and mature team. What is also fact, is that KU is 2/3rd through the regular season and Self is still trying to figure out his player rotations. I imaging the players have little idea what to expect each game and the hype we heard about Remy Martin’s game is not materializing under Self. If you cannot guard you do not play. Yet, KU is a marginally good defensive basketball team, and they rely on Ochai Agbaji to be Superman. When he is a mere mortal offensively (13 points on 4-14 shooting, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 turnovers), then KU has problems. There are 11 regular season games remaining and this team cannot stop dribble penetration and pick and rolls. Normally between semesters, the team becomes better defensively when they can focus on basketball, but clearly many of the players did not receive passing grades during Self’s Basketball Defense 101 course. The Big 12 was supposedly the best league in college basketball, but they went 4-6 against the SEC, including the ISU win over MU.

Now back to the Big 12 race as Self has reminded the fan base. Although it is just one game, I thought KU was ultimately competing for a national championship and the 80-62 beat down AT HOME exposed KU nationally that they are overrated (even Vegas continues to overestimate KU’s talent given how infrequent they cover the spread). Okay, the beatdown by UK is in the rearview mirror and on to the Big 12 regular season, followed by the Big 12 tournament, and then the NCAA tournament (unless a monumental collapse or an earlier ruling by the NCAA/IARP regarding rules violations). But as I wrote previously KU has not dominated in their first 7 Big 12 games other than WVU – they are just surviving. Has their luck worn off or will they somehow get better? The next few weeks will be illuminating to all. Rock Chalk.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Robert Brock

KJ Adams played 11 minutes and was out-classed. Not one rebound. Statistically a big nothing-burger.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Blake Brown

Our best stat of the game was in minutes played. We actually were credited for having the same although that is debatable.
Obviously, this was very embarrassing and if I'm a player, I will do everything I can to atone for it, but it has to be as a TEAM.
Moving on. Big test Tuesday.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

The weather sure isn’t the only thing in KS that can swing from warm and sunny to cold and nasty.

Matt - I’d suggest to you that while it might not have helped to play 6-5, that would be a far cry from the 4-5 played for most of the game. Our ceiling is much lower if Mitch provides the only production from the 5 spot. Love his effort and eternal devotion to KU, but 1-1-1 from the starter in a physical game that preferred should be embarrassing. Coach and others are still hoping for the second half of jr David, but he definitely sets the limit on the team. I was hoping that Cam would have been the insurance this year against this implosion.

Speaking of lifetime contracts, I noticed before the game that Pearl got one from Auburn. Makes me feel better about winning 80% of our games. By the way, the neighbor’s green grass is painted dirt.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Rodney Crain

So many flaws all on display for a national TV audience.

Have to give this team credit, when you think they can't play any worse they show us they can. Bad games, off nights are one thing, but this team has been playing poorly for awhile. Bench is near worthless, portal players are not even close to the way they played in their careers and DMac is a train wreck this season.

Sad thing is I don't think we have seen the bottom yet.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Kevin Woods

Ku needs to recruit someone who can freaking rebound!!! WAY TOO MANY times the ball hits the floor after a miss is just unacceptable.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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