Mark Story

Instant analysis: Who’s up, who’s down after Kentucky’s 71-63 win over Kansas

What was the key for Kentucky in win over Kansas?

Kentucky forward Reid Travis talks about the key for UK in its 71-63 win over Kansas on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, at Rupp Arena. Travis scored 18 points and 12 rebounds while battling Kansas’ Dedric Lawson, who scored 20 points.
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Kentucky forward Reid Travis talks about the key for UK in its 71-63 win over Kansas on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, at Rupp Arena. Travis scored 18 points and 12 rebounds while battling Kansas’ Dedric Lawson, who scored 20 points.

Instant analysis from No. 8 Kentucky’s 71-63 win over No. 9 Kansas:

How the game was won

Kentucky post players PJ Washington (20 points, 13 rebounds) and Reid Travis (18 points, 12 boards) overpowered a Kansas team starting four guards, and the No. 8 Wildcats wore down the No. 9 Jayhawks to rally from a 33-30 halftime deficit and snap a three-game losing streak vs. KU.

Game balls

1. PJ Washington and Reid Travis. With Kansas playing small ball due to injury and an eligibility question, UK needed its post players to dominate. They did.

2. Ashton Hagans. The Kentucky freshman point guard (12 points, eight assists, three steals) twice hit jump shots just ahead of shot-clock violations. The Georgia product has a knack for making the big play when it’s needed.

3. Rupp Arena fans. The attendance of 24,387 was easily Kentucky’s largest crowd of the season and the fans gave “big-game Rupp” the juice one would expect for a blue-blood battle like UK-Kansas.

4. Dedric Lawson. The 6-9 Kansas star shot only 7-of-18, but had 20 points and 15 rebounds. It was apparent why University of Memphis fans were angry with Tubby Smith over Lawson leaving the Tigers program.

Reasons for worry

1. Kentucky bench production. The Wildcats got no points from any reserve.

2. Kansas front-court production. With 7-foot Udoka Azubuike out for the season due to injury and 6-9 Silvio De Sousa in the netherworld of eligibility uncertainty due to questions arising from the FBI investigation of college hoops recruiting practices, the Jayhawks just don’t have much to go with Dedric Lawson up front.

Key number(s)

Fifteen. With Kentucky’s victory, UK’s margin in the all-time men’s college basketball wins race over Kansas moved to plus-15. First-place UK now has 2,279 victories to second-place KU’s 2,264.

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari talks to the media after his team’s 71-63 win over Kansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in Rupp Arena. UK has now won six straight and is 16-3 on the season.

The Cat-mosphere

1. University of Kentucky operatic tenor Everett McCorvey led the Rupp Arena crowd in a sing-a-long version of the national anthem. As always, it was a cool way to do “The Star Spangled Banner.”

2. UK game host Ravi Moss introduced Kentucky signee Tyrese Maxey to the Rupp Arena crowd as “the 66th McDonald’s All-American to come to the University of Kentucky.”

3. As Citrus Bowl highlights of Kentucky’s victory over Penn State played on the Rupp Arena video boards at halftime, UK football coach Mark Stoops and members of UK’s 10-3 football team were recognized at midcourt. Taking the microphone from Stoops, Wildcats middle linebacker Kash Daniel vowed that UK football “will be back raising hell next year, I promise you that.”

4. Rick Robey, starting power forward on Joe B. Hall’s 1978 NCAA championship team, was the “Y.”

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to the media after his team’s 71-63 loss to Kentucky on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, at Rupp Arena as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Jayhawks led 33-30 at halftime, but were outscored 41-30 in the second half.

Up next

No. 8 Kentucky (16-3, 5-1 SEC) will have a quick turnaround as the Wildcats will travel to Nashville to face SEC foe Vanderbilt (9-10, 0-6 SEC) Tuesday at 9 p.m. (EST) in a game that will be telecast by ESPN.

Coach Bryce Drew’s Commodores were drubbed 86-55 by Oklahoma Saturday at 4 p.m. in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Kentucky leads the all-time series with Vanderbilt 146-47, and leads in Nashville 64-33.

Know your foe

1. This game is a rematch from Kentucky’s 56-47 victory over Vanderbilt in Rupp Arena on Jan. 12. UK trailed early and was down 30-28 at halftime but rallied to win behind strong games from Ashton Hagans (15 points), Keldon Johnson (15 points) and Immanuel Quickley (12 points).

2. Vanderbilt’s most recent game in Memorial Gym was an excruciating loss, falling to No. 1 Tennessee 88-83 in overtime after the Commodores entered the final 1:30 of regulation with a 76-70 lead.

3. As Kentucky coach, John Calipari is 16-4 vs. Vanderbilt. As Vandy head man, Bryce Drew is 0-5 vs. UK — but all five defeats have been close. Under Drew, the Commodores have fallen to the Wildcats by six points, by six again, by seven, by two in overtime and by nine after leading at halftime.

UK freshman Keldon Johnson was one of three Wildcats to record a double-double Saturday night against Kansas. He talked up UK's team defense after the victory.

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a H-L sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.

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