Rupp Arena was the loudest it’s been in quite some time, and rightfully so, as the nation’s eighth & ninth best teams met on the hardwood for an SEC-Big 12 clash.
Both offenses struggled early, with Kansas taking the slight 33-30 edge into halftime. The Wildcats were much more efficient to start the second period, making 4-7 baskets for 11 points to the Jayhawks’ six points.
Behind the efforts of their front court, as well as the defensive back-bone that is Ashton Hagans, Kentucky went on to claim their best victory of the season, 71-63.
Big Blue Nation Shows Up
24,387 people were in attendance for Saturday night’s match-up, the highest total this season for a Kentucky game in Rupp Arena. Fans were lined up hours before tip-off, anxiously waiting to walk through the entrance and find their seat in the basketball sanctuary.
Big Blue Nation was the loudest it’s been in quite some time, even bringing vibrations to press row. The effort by fans was mirrored by each Kentucky player, which should warrant such turnouts even more as the remainder of the season unfolds.
Travis & Washington Answer the Call
With Udoka Azubuike sidelined for the Jayhawks on Saturday, Kentucky’s top-priority was to attack the painted area on offense. Starting forwards PJ Washington and Reid Travis answered the bell, combining for 38 points and 25 rebounds in the contest.
Kentucky needed their two veteran big men more than ever on Saturday and they absolutely came through. Not only did they bring it on offense, but they also threw bodies at Kansas’s Dedric Lawson. Though the KU star had 20 points, nearly every shot he took was contested.
Receiving offense from the UK duo was something Big Blue Nation had seen before. This sudden urge on the defensive side of the ball, though, is a significant plus.
Hagans Sounds Off
Ashton Hagans continues to “wow” fans during his freshman campaign at Kentucky. The sensational point guard scored 12 points, dished out seven assists and picked up three steals in Saturday’s winning effort.
His ability to command the offense and still contribute maximum effort at the defensive end may remind some of Gary Payton. That’s exactly the type of player the Wildcats need to lead their team as they enter the heart of SEC play.
Offense Struggles in First Half
Kentucky was absolutely brutal when attempting to execute their offense in the first half. The Wildcats shot 33% from the field and failed to make any of their eight three-point attempts.
Kentucky was lucky to find themselves down just three points at the break, as the heavy lifting from Travis kept them afloat. As Kentucky enters a tough slate of road games next week, first-half struggles should be atop the list of issues to be fixed.
Give credit to Kansas, however, as they came into this game with a KenPom top-10 defense, and they looked every bit of it as they smothered Kentucky on the perimeter. Kentucky won’t face many teams with as much backcourt talent and depth as Kansas has.
But as good as they were, the Wildcats still did enough to come away victorious.
Up next for the Wildcats will be a trip to Nashville where they’ll face the Vanderbilt Commodores on Tuesday night. Tip-off is set for 9 pm EST.