UK Men's Basketball

Two ‘bigs’ better than one in Kentucky’s win over Kansas

Photo slideshow: Kentucky defeats Kansas 71-63

The Kentucky men's basketball team defeated Kansas 71-63 Saturday at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
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The Kentucky men's basketball team defeated Kansas 71-63 Saturday at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

Two isn’t necessarily better than one all the time. But it was Saturday night in Rupp Arena.

As expected, Kentucky’s depth of “bigs” impacted the game against Kansas. With PJ Washington and Reid Travis posting double-doubles, UK won 71-63.

Travis scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.

Washington added 20 points and 13 rebounds. Keldon Johnson also had a double-double: 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Dedric Lawson, who had little help battling Washington and Travis, scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for his fifth double-double in the last eight games and 14th of the season.

The two-versus-one dynamic contributed to a 38-20 UK advantage in points from the paint and a 49-36 rebounding edge.

In a competition featuring two teams ranked in the top 10, No. 8 Kentucky improved its record to 16-3. No. 9 Kansas fell to 16-4.

On Friday, UK Coach John Calipari all but predicted a competitive game. Kansas had won its last game at Kentucky, Calipari said, “so they’re not coming in here afraid.”

Because Kansas lost its center, Udoka Azubuike, to injury, Kentucky was expected to enjoy an advantage around the basket. “I like our chances,” Travis said on Friday.

Travis said it was “exhausting” for any “big” to battle multiple defenders.

For only the fourth time this season, Kentucky trailed at halftime. Kansas led 33-30 at the break.

By halftime, Lawson already had 11 points and 11 rebounds as Kansas led for 14-plus minutes of the first half.

On the ESPN College GameDay show earlier in the day, Calipari said he wanted to see a seamless victory. “Consistency,” he said. “And we’ve got to get to where we can play for 40 minutes. … Two or three guys disengage, don’t compete.”

Another slow start put Kentucky in comeback mode. The Cats made only three of their first 19 shots.

Kansas led 16-6 barely minutes into the game.

Travis steadied Kentucky and led the charge. The first of his four and-ones in the first half began the turnaround.

The Cats got as close as 23-21 in the latter stages of the half.

Kentucky seemed intent on using his depth advantage inside. The Cats went to Travis in the low post on their first possession. But, oddly, Travis got only one shot (a putback) in the next 10 minutes.

Remembering Travis and his four offensive rebounds made up for UK’s 13-for-39 shooting in the first half. The Cats missed all eight of their three-point shots.

Kansas was not much better. The Jayhawks made 13 of 36 shots (three of 10 on threes) in the first half.

A corner three-pointer by Johnson put UK ahead 35-33 with 18:46 left. The first three-pointer after nine misses gave Kentucky its first lead since 6-4.

A put-back by Travis expanded the lead to 41-37. That was UK’s largest lead to that point and prompted a Kansas timeout with 16:12 left.

A murmur filled Rupp Arena when Travis picked up his third foul and went to the bench with 15:31 left. He was called for charging in the post.

But another three-pointer by Johnson expanded UK’s lead to 50-44. Again Kansas called timeout, this time with 11:28 left.

Kentucky seemed on the verge of a double-digit lead with less than five minutes left. Hagans’ third steal of the night came with UK ahead 57-49.

A turnover trying to feed the post blunted the chances of a 10-point lead.

Perhaps Lawson’s frustration helped Kentucky get a double-digit lead. He was called for a flagrant foul with 2:23 left. Two Travis free throws put UK ahead 64-54.

Next game

No. 8 Kentucky at Vanderbilt

9 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN)

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