Kentucky Wildcats vs. Kansas Jayhawks is all you need to hear to know that this was a big-time matchup. Each team came in looking to make a statement, but it was Kentucky that walked away with the win.
From the tip, both teams came out playing strong defense and made life hard on the offensive end of the floor, as it was 4-4 at the first media timeout.
The Cats settled down and started running their offense, which led to a lot of open looks. Unfortunately, they just weren’t making them.
Kansas started heating up and had built a 10-point lead, 16-6, with just under 10 minutes left in the half.
Thankfully, Kentucky has a guy on the team named Reid Travis, and he came ready to play. He fueled the Cats’ comeback as they quickly made it a 20-17 ballgame.
Each team would make their runs to close out the half, but the Cats would head to the break down 33-30.
After the break, Kentucky came out and just like they have done the previous two games; they had a burst to start the half as quickly took a 35-33 lead.
The Cats in the second half were much better offensively and seemed to be under control, whereas in the first half, they seemed to be rushing themselves. That flow allowed them to build up a 52-44 lead.
Kansas kept battling, and with just under eight minutes left, they hit a three-ball to make it a three-point game, 52-49.
But Kentucky closed out the game strong and never let Kansas any closer, as the Cats got a 71-63 victory.
Thoughts on the game
Reid Travis was the spark
Early in the season, Travis was the reason we were winning games with his consistent play night in and night out. However, once SEC play started, Travis struggled with the length on the bigs he was matched up with.
In this one, he wasn’t facing the length SEC bigs have,and he took advantage of it as he finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds (7 offensive rebounds). When Kentucky went down 10 early, he came in and made huge plays to spark to Cats.
Travis also made a huge impact on defense, as he kept Dedric Lawson from taking over the game. Lawson is Kansas’ go-to guy, and he did get 20 in this one, but he did so on 7/18 shooting with one turnover and four fouls.
Travis did better defensively than most expected him to do in this matchup.
PJ Washington continues his hot streak
The last eight days have seen three of the best performances in the career of PJ Washington as he was a dominant force at Auburn, backed it up against Mississippi State, then dominated again when Kentucky needed every bit of it vs Kansas.
PJ finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks, an assist, and a steal. He was locked in from the start and was able to take advantage of the much smaller defenders he was matched up with.
PJ Washington is the first Kentucky player with at least 20 points and 13 rebounds in a win against an opponent ranked in the Top 10 of the AP Poll since Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs. #4 Louisville on December 31st, 2011— Corey Price (@coreyp08) January 27, 2019
If this is the PJ that UK gets the rest of the year, look out.
Keldon Johnson showed up in the second half
The first half for Johnson was not his best performance but he came back out in the second half looking to make an impact.
And that’s exactly what he did. He made big plays all throughout the second half, including 3/3 shooting from deep, including the dagger with three minutes left.
Johnson finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, joining Reid Travis and PJ Washington with a double-double. This was the first time that three players on Kentucky recorded a double-double since DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, and John Wall did it.
Ashton Hagans continues to gain confidence
We all know just how good Hagans has been on the defensive end of the floor, and he continued that vs. Kansas, as he came up with three steals and made life hard or the Kansas guards.
However, Hagans is starting to look for his shot more and more and in this one he had 12 points to go along with eight assists and some of his points came in different ways.
Ashton Hagans is the first Kentucky player with at least 12 points, 7 assists, and 3 steals in a win against an opponent ranked in the Top 10 of the AP Poll since John Wall vs. #10 North Carolina on December 5th, 2009— Corey Price (@coreyp08) January 27, 2019
He still got to the rim and made free throws, but he also knocked down a big three and hit a nice step back jumper late in the shot clock. If he continues to improve his shot, he will be almost impossible to stop.
Tyler Herro impacted the game in other ways
Herro has been one of UK’s better scorers over the last several games, but in this one,his shots weren’t falling, which happens to everyone.
However, not everyone does what he did, and that is impact the game in other ways. He was able to hold LaGerald Vick, arguably the best scorer Kansas, has to 10 points, and six of those came in the last minute on desperation threes. Herro locked him up for 40 minutes.
Herro also crashed the glass as he came down with 5 rebounds. He was also getting the ball to his teammates in position to score, as he accounted for five assists.
A very solid performance by Herro, even though his shots weren’t falling.
Where was the bench?
Recently, the team has been getting very solid production from the bench.
But not in this one, at least on the offensive end.
Aside from the five blocks by Nick Richards, the bench gave the Cats nothing on offense. Zero points, one assist, and five rebounds is not going to cut it if Kentucky hopes to make a deep run in March.
The good news is they still made a big impact on defense with six blocks overall and helped keep Kansas from wreaking havoc in the paint. But it’s going to be hard to win in March if Kentucky can’t get any points from Immanuel Quickley — arguably the second-best three-point shooter behind Tyler Herro — or Nick Richards, who is skilled enough offensively to get at least a few buckets per game.
The Cats will be back in action Tuesday night as they make the trip to face the Vanderbilt Commodores. That game will tip-off at 9:00 pm EST on ESPN.
Now, here are the postgame notes and milestones via UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky won its sixth in a row and is 16-3 overall. Kansas is 16-4 overall.
- Kentucky leads the series 23-9 and ended a three-game losing streak vs. Kansas.
- UK is 3-3 all-time in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
- Tonight’s game featured a season-high 24,387 attendance.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats resume Southeastern Conference action Tuesday at Vanderbilt. Game time is 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT in Nashville) and it will be televised on ESPN.
- UK defeated Vanderbilt 56-47 in Rupp Arena in the first matchup, on Jan. 12.
In the First Half
- Kentucky started Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington and Reid Travis for the 12th time this season. UK is now 9-3 with that lineup.
- Kansas was the first team to get hot. Trailing 6-4, the Jayhawks ripped off 12 straight to take a 16-6 lead.
- After going scoreless for almost six minutes, Kentucky awakened with nine points in a two-minute span, pulling within 18-15.
- The teams played evenly from that point and Kansas retained a 33-30 advantage going into halftime.
- UK got strong inside play in the first half, with Travis totaling 12 points and six rebounds while Washington compiled six points and nine boards.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky’s first 3-pointer of the game, by Johnson with 18:48 on the clock, gave UK the lead at 35-33.
- Tied at 44, Washington made the first of two free throws. After the second was missed, EJ Montgomery ran down the loose ball and got it to Herro, who found Washington for a layup.
- Moments later, Johnson hit another 3 from the corner and Travis backed in for a short banker and UK had its largest lead at 52-44.
- UK eventually stretched its largest lead to 10 at 64-54 and coasted to the final score of 71-63.
- Kansas scored 63 points. UK is 163-7 under Coach John Calipari when keeping the opponent to 63 points or less, including 11-0 this season.
- Kansas shot only 36.5 percent from the field. UK is 172-15 (.920) under Calipari when keeping the opponent at 40 percent or less, including 7-0 this season.
- UK has held four of its last five opponents to 40 percent or less.
- Kentucky was strong around the basket tonight, winning the rebounding 49-36 and points in the paint 38-20.
- During the current six-game win streak UK has …
- Held the opponents to 61.3 points per game
- Limited the opponents to 38.1 percent from the field
- Limited the opponents to 31 percent from 3-point range
- With Travis, Washington and Johnson snagging double-doubles, the last time UK had three in the same game was Feb. 16, 2010, when DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and John Wall each had a double-double.
- Kentucky is 4-1 vs. Associated Press Top 25 teams this season, including victories in consecutive games over Auburn, Mississippi State and Kansas.
- This is the first time UK defeated ranked opponents in three consecutive games since the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
- The last time UK defeated ranked opponents in three consecutive games in the regular season was 2004.
- UK improved to 249-5 (.980) under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points at any point in the game.
- UK has won 15 in a row at Rupp Arena, including 12-0 this season.
- Kentucky hosted ESPN College GameDay Saturday morning, UK’s 17th appearance on the show. UK is 7-10 in games that were preceded by GameDay but has won two in a row.
- The Wildcats grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, the 13th time UK has grabbed double digits rebounds and the fourth time in the last five games.
- PJ Washington finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season and eighth of his career.
- With 21 points vs. Mississippi State and 20 tonight, he has back-to-back 20-point games for the first time in his career.
- He has two 20-point, 10-rebound games this season, also vs. Seton Hall.
- Washington is the first players with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a game since turning trick against Seton Hall (29 points and 12 rebounds) earlier this season.
- Keldon Johnson came up with 15 points and 10 rebounds, his third double-double of the season.
- Reid Travis amassed 18 points and 12 rebounds, his second double-double at Kentucky and 28th of his career.
- Travis has been his best against the best. In UK’s five games against ranked opponents, he is averaging 16.4 points and nine rebounds per game.
- Travis has grabbed 12 rebounds in back-to-back games and matched his season high again.
- His seven offensive rebounds were a season high.
- Ashton Hagans tallied 12 points, seven assists and three steals.
- Hagans has 13 consecutive games with at least three assists. He’s led the team in assists 13 times this season.
- UK is 3-0 this season when Hagans has at least seven assists.
- Hagans has 34 steals in the last nine games, averaging 3.8 per game during that span.
- Tyler Herro contributed six points, five assists and five rebounds.
- Nick Richards had a career-high five blocked shots in only nine minutes of action.
- Calipari is now 291-67 at UK, including 48-23 when both teams are ranked in the AP Top 25.
- Calipari has a 736-207 all-time on-court record.
- He is now six wins away from tying Joe B. Hall for the second-most victories by a UK head coach in program history.
- UK is 56-27 vs. The Associated Press top 25 under Calipari and 22-17 vs. top-10 opponents.
- UK is 14-9 under Calipari when both teams are ranked in the AP top 10.