Rushed Reactions: #4 Kansas 65, #7 Kentucky 61

Posted by Walker Carey on November 15th, 2017

RTC is providing coverage of the Champions Classic in Chicago.

Three Key Takeaways.

Kansas and Kentucky Battled It Out in Chicago Tonight (USA Today Images)

  1. This was the very definition of an early season college basketball game. After the first game of the Champions Classic exhibited two elite teams duking it out to the end in very exciting fashion, the second game between Kansas and Kentucky — while also close — left something to be desired. The Jayhawks earned the 65-61 victory despite shooting just 35.3 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from the three-point line, and 56.3 percent from the charity stripe. The starting backcourt was even worse — Devonte’ Graham, LaGerald Vick and Malik Newman shot just 11-of-41 for the game. Kentucky shot the ball somewhat better –finishing at 41.8 percent from the field — but torpedoed its chance to win with 18 turnovers. These ugly performances certainly make sense when you consider Kansas is clearly still adjusting to life without Frank Mason II and Josh Jackson, and Kentucky is once again breaking in an entirely new rotation. There are more growing pains coming for both teams as they maneuver through the regular season, but the talent is definitely there for each team to be a factor in both its conference and the national landscape.
  2. Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox gave Kentucky fans a glimpse of the future. While several Kentucky freshmen struggled on the big stage in Chicago tonight, Diallo and Knox showed flashes of what made them such highly-sought recruits in the first place. Diallo’s speed and athleticism were on full display, as his tenacious defense bothered the Kansas backcourt all night and led to several difficult shots. The Wildcats, on the other hand, needed someone to step up offensively and Knox provided that boost. The freshman scored a game-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting (3-of-6 from the three-point line). Freshman growth is not linear, but both Diallo and Knox took substantial steps in the right direction in tonight’s defeat.
  3. Kansas needs to find a way to get Udoka Azubuike more touches. In a game where Kansas struggled to get normal production from its backcourt, it instead found great success in pounding the ball inside to sophomore seven-footer Azubuike. The big man finished the game with 13 points and eight rebounds while making all five of his shots from the field. It was baffling to understand how he only got five shot attempts in 34 minutes — especially considering how poorly Kansas shot from the perimeter — but Bill Self made it known in his postgame remarks that his guards need to do a better job of getting the ball to Azubuike.

Player of the Game. Udoka Azubuike, Kansas. News broke early Tuesday evening that Kansas was going to be without freshman forward Billy Preston tonight because of an internal investigation over a single-car accident he experienced on Saturday. Preston’s absence meant Kansas needed the sophomore Azubuike to play big minutes and avoid foul trouble. He succeeded in both attributes, finishing the night with 13 points and eight rebounds in 34 minutes of action — and only three fouls! Self noted after the game that the Jayhawks would have been in big trouble if Azubuike had instead picked up his fouls early, and was highly complimentary of the big man’s overall effectiveness.

Quotable.

  • “That was an unbelievable win. Kentucky will be a great team come January or February.” – Kansas coach Bill Self, acknowledging that while the game was ugly, getting a win over a talented team is always welcome.
  • “I’m proud of Billy. He was a great teammate on the bench. Our guys will rally around him. But certainly it was disappointing — it was very disappointing.” – Self, on Billy Preston being withheld from tonight’s win.
  • “He led us and he did a great job with that.” – Kansas guard Malik Newman, noting that despite his poor shooting performance, senior guard Devonte’ Graham played a major role in the victory.
  • “We are a ways away, to be what we need to be. But to play in a game like this and have a chance to win, wow.” – Kentucky coach John Calipari, expressing that while his young team needs work, he is happy with the fight it showed in defeat.

Sights and Sounds. The 9:00 PM local tip time coupled with a bit of a sleepy game on the court resulted in a sleepy crowd for the nightcap. That changed near the finish, however, when the result was still in doubt with a few minutes to play. Both the Kansas and Kentucky faithful did their best to push their teams over the edge, but when Kansas finally secured the victory in the closing seconds, a brief “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” chant made its way around the United Center.

What’s Next. Kentucky will look to get back on the winning track Friday night when it hosts East Tennessee State at Rupp Arena. Kansas also returns to action Friday with a home tilt against South Dakota State.

WCarey (252 Posts)


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