If you attended the Kentucky Wildcats’ clash with the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday night, you felt electricity in the atmosphere of Rupp Arena. If you were watching from home or listening on the road, it’s likely you could still sense how intense the home crowd was for the Wildcats. Fans brought one heck of a homecourt advantage to the table but Kentucky fell just short of delivering a victory as the Wildcats fell to the Jayhawks, 77-68.
It appeared as if Kentucky played very well in the first half. While the Wildcats did shoot 55% from the floor, they failed to grab an offensive rebound or make a three-point shot. They also made just four of their 11 free throw attempts. Meanwhile, Kansas beat out Kentucky on the glass and made two three-point shots to take a 41-34 halftime advantage.
The “Benny Ball” lineup of Cason Wallace, Antonio Reeves, CJ Fredrick, Jacob Toppin, and Oscar Tshiebwe saw zero minutes of action in the first period. But it took head coach John Calipari just 1:02 into the second half to play those five together.
Kentucky saw instant results, as the Wildcats went on to outscore Kansas 9-4 over the next three minutes. The team’s offense kept dealing blow after blow and Kentucky even made all 12 of their free throw attempts in the second half. But the team’s defense couldn’t hold up as Kansas stayed out in front and rained in three three-pointers over the final five minutes to pull away at the end.
Kentucky’s four-game winning streak comes to an end and the Wildcats fall to 14-7 on the season. They’ll have a quick turnaround at Ole Miss on Tuesday with tip-off scheduled for 9 PM ET.
Kansas came into Saturday night’s game undersized and lost Zuby Ejiofor early in the first half. That left a gaping hole in the middle of their defense, allowing Kentucky star Oscar Tshiebwe to make the most of his opportunities inside with 18 points, nine rebounds, and four assists.
The reigning National Player of the Year was nearly unstoppable inside. Tshiebwe only took nine shots, though, which didn’t feel like enough in the loss. Kentucky needed to get their star big man the ball more and will have the opportunity to do just that on Tuesday in Oxford.
Kentucky will need to quickly get back on the winning track and Tshiebwe is the best recipe for that.