LAWRENCE, Kansas — Kentucky basketball traveled to Kansas looking for a win to boost their resume. He walked away with the kind of victory that will leave no choice but to see the Wildcats as one of the favorites to win a national championship.
Behind a career-high 27 points from the junior forward Keion Brooks, No. 13 Kentucky outscored No. 5 Kansas 80-62 in their arena. The win ended Kansas’ 17-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse. It was the United Kingdom’s first win in the building since December 1983. The 18-point win marked Kentucky’s largest winning margin against a top-five road team in program history.
Kentucky led by 20 points at halftime and never less than 14 points in the second half. Seven different British players scored in the first eight minutes of the match.
National Player of the Year nominee Oscar Tshiebwe posted another double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds while playing strong defense throughout. super senior guard Kellan Grady (12) and junior forward Jacob Toppin (11) also finished in double digits.
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Keion Brooks performs with the best performance of his career
John Calipari frequently pointed to areas other than scoring to judge Brooks’ performance, so it was likely a sign of good things to come when Brooks grabbed Kentucky’s first two rebounds of the game and turned one into a dunk. put back in place.
“The way he came out tonight, he was amazing,” Tshiebwe said of Brooks. “I’m so proud of him.”
It was Brooks who took over in the second half to prevent Kansas from getting back into the game. Tshiebwe opened the second half with a jumper, but Brooks scored the Wildcats’ next 15 points. When Kansas mounted a 7-0 mini run to get the Allen Fieldhouse crowd back in the game, Brooks silenced the run with a midrange jumper.
Brooks made 9 of 16 shots and 9 of 10 free throws on the night. He caught five offensive boards and scored nine second-chance points. Brooks was only credited with one assist, but that assist, a pass to Oscar Tshiebwe in the post, might have been Kentucky’s best assist all season.
“Please don’t say 27 points,” Calipari said. “He bounced back. He defended. He came out on the weak side on a lob and knocked it down. They called a foul, but it was a great play. He was changing everything. And then he made shots.
“What if he misses four or five shots? It’s okay. Doing all that other stuff. But I was proud of him.”
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Kentucky basketball has a chance for the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi had named Kentucky as a Seed #3 early afternoon, but the biggest hole in the Wildcats’ resume was the lack of wins at the top level.
Kentucky missed opportunities for wins at LSU and Auburn when injuries to Sahvir Wheeler and Ty Ty Washington has left the Wildcats shorthanded in both games, but a full-strength Kentucky team certainly looks like one of the top four in the nation in Lawrence. Kentucky is now 3-3 in Quadrant 1 games (NET top 25 at home, top 50 at neutral sites and top 75 on the road) with six more Quadrant 1 games on the regular season schedule.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee can’t give Kentucky credit for the wins it didn’t get, but the team’s record at full strength is hard to fault. There are still plenty of opportunities for Kentucky to take this decision out of the hands of the committee. Take care of business in the remaining road games and marquee home contests against LSU and Alabama, and Kentucky will have a resume that compares to almost any.
“Whenever we play as a team like this, I don’t think anyone can stop us,” Tshiebwe said.
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TyTy Washington returns from an ankle injury
Prior to the game, much of the discussion revolved around whether Kentucky could win without Washington, who missed Tuesday’s game against Mississippi State with an ankle injury. That question went unanswered because Washington played against the Jayhawks, but he didn’t contribute to the UK victory as many might have expected.
Washington scored just two points on 1-of-9 shooting, but its presence was felt in several areas. Not only did Washington, Kentucky’s second-leading scorer and top NBA draft prospect, grab the Kansas defense’s attention for much of the night, but he also had three rebounds, five assists and three interceptions.
“TyTy has created plans for a lot of different people,” Tshiebwe said. “The good thing about him is that he doesn’t care. He just wants our team to win.”
After Washington couldn’t play in the second half against Auburn or the Wildcats lost a 16-point second-half lead to Mississippi State, Calipari pointed to Washington’s ability to win a one-on-one game. header when the game is on the line as being critical to Kentucky’s prospects. The score wasn’t close enough to test that theory in Kansas, but Washington proved its worth nonetheless.
“They asked me what the difference was; our guards were healthy,” Calipari said. “We had healthy guards. Keion played well, Jacob played well, Oscar was a beast. … But we were healthy at guard.”