Coming off of a narrow home win against Mississippi State on Tuesday, the Kentucky Wildcats took the show on the road for the Big 12/SEC challenge. It is always an uphill battle to win in Lawrence, but Kentucky took the fight to the Kansas Jayhawks and cam away with a dominant 80-62 win. And to be honest, it wasn’t even that close.
Oscar Tshiebwe brings another double-double back to Lexington, as he had 17 points and 14 rebounds for the game. But the story of the night for Kentucky was Keion Brooks, who dominated the game with 27 points and 8 rebounds of his own.
“This was never a game. Ever.” - Jay Bilas on Kentucky’s performance.
Here is what you need to know from Kentucky’s most impressive win of the season.
Hot Start Sets The Tone
As Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” It is huge if you can get off to a strong start, especially in a hostile environment on the road. And boy did Kentucky start off Saturday’s game with a bang.
The Wildcats shot 62% from the field and 50% from behind the three-point line, heading into the break with a 51-31 lead. They also dominated the glass for a 23-12 rebound advantage. It is always difficult to win in Allen Fieldhouse, so any time you can get an early 20 point lead, I highly recommend it.
No Comfort “Zone”
Down by 22 in the second half, Kansas changed their approach and went to a 2-3 zone. That really slowed Kentucky’s offense down, and it made it more difficult to make an impact on the offensive glass. That sparked a comeback by Kansas. They cut Kentucky’s lead down to 14 before the Wildcats settled in and stopped the bleeding and regained the momentum.
Kansas ultimately went back to man-to-man defense, but it is worth noting that Kentucky may need to work a little bit more on zone offense.
When you list the best players on Kentucky’s team, I am not sure that list starts with Keion Brooks, Jr. However, it seems that the team’s success has been closely tied to his play in each and every game. Thankfully, he brought his best game with him to Lawrence, Kansas.
Brooks ended the game with 27 points and 8 rebounds, completely carrying the Cats in the second half with 15 of their first 17 points. He was very aggressive offensively, drawing several foul calls near the basket on Kansas defenders. And he was nearly perfect from the free throw line.
If Keion Brooks is going to be THIS guy, or even close, it will be a game-changer for Kentucky in March. This team’s ceiling is looking as high as it’s been in quite some time.
Now let’s celebrate!