Your University of Kentucky Wildcats moved to 16-3 on the season with a third consecutive victory over a ranked team, this time beating the ninth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 71-63.
And. It. Was. AWESOME.
Celebrate with me by reading these takeaways from the game.
PJ Washington and Reid Travis took advantage of a weak Kansas frontcourt.
What did everyone say before the game?
“PJ Washington and Reid Travis have to show up.”
Well, they did.
The two UK big men combined for 36 points and 25 rebounds, each with a double-double, against a one-man threat from Kansas. Since the Jayhawks lost Udoka Azuibuike for the season, it’s been Dedric Lawson and only Dedric Lawson inside. He’s been great — 20 points and 15 rebounds in this one — but not great enough to stop Washington and Travis. They capitalized on the opportunity to eat and they both got full by attacking the outmatched Jayhawks inside.
Lawson said, “They played HARD. You’ve got to give those guys credit.”
Keldon Johnson was also great.
If Washington and Travis are the two stars of the game, Keldon Johnson is a close third. Johnson finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and had one of the plays of the game when he knocked down a huge three-pointer to extend the Cats’ lead to 12 points in the second half.
After the game he said he was “locked in” from the beginning. Now he needs to find a way to always be so “locked in” and he’ll be pretty unstoppable. He’s a special player whenever he is giving maximum effort, as he was Saturday night.
Tyler Herro was ice cold, but don’t call it a bad game.
It was one of Tyler Herro’s worst games as a shooter, but he did what Cal begs his players to do when the shots aren’t falling: he found other ways to impact the game, which is why he played a career-high 38 minutes.
Cal said afterward, “Tyler didn’t make shots, but I thought played well because now he’s defending and rebounding, he doesn’t have to make shots every time.”
Herro finished with five rebounds and five assists, in addition to good defense. That’s how you make up for a rough night offensively.
No bench, no problem.
Outside of five blocks from my man Second Semester Sophomore Nick Richards, Kentucky got very little production from the bench. Offensively, it got absolutely nothing. Zero points from the group of Richards, Montgomery, Quickley and Baker, which is not ideal but shows how well the five starters played. You don’t want it to be a recurring theme moving forward, but it’s pretty impressive for UK to beat Kansas without a bench.
Just another Ashton Hagans night for Ashton Hagans.
Jay Williams told me on Friday that Ashton Hagans has a special “moxie” about him, a “dog mentality.” That moxie revealed itself again against Kansas when Hagans made some big-time plays in the second half as UK held on to its lead and closed out the game.
Hagans has really become a star since that breakout game against North Carolina and his play has taken Kentucky’s play to the next level. In this one he added three more steals to his swipe count and dished out seven assists, plus a filthy stepback jumper when UK needed a score in the second half.
If his outside shot ever starts to fall, my God, he’ll be incredible.
Leave it to Kash Daniel to steal the show at a basketball game.
— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) January 27, 2019
Daniel was one of a handful of UK football players who joined Mark Stoops to show off the Citrus Bowl trophy to the Rupp Arena crowd. Very cool moment on a night full of very cool moments.
Future UK star had a front row seat.
Listen to the pop for Tyrese Maxey, the five-star point guard signee who sat directly behind Kentucky’s bench.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 26, 2019
UK was able to introduce Maxey to the crowd because he has already inked his Letter of Intent for next season, otherwise it’s a big no-no to acknowledge any high school visitors. It’d be cool if they were able to do this more often for incoming players.
Rupp Arena put on its best performance in years.
There wasn’t an empty seat in the building and all 24,387 fans in attendance brought their loudest voices and applause to will the Cats to victory. Rupp Arena has been criticized lately for poor fan turnout, but that was not the case with No. 9 Kansas in town Saturday night. It was a rowdy environment throughout the entire game and one of the best atmospheres in several years.
Kentucky is kind of on fire right now.
After the disappointment suffered down in Tuscaloosa to open up SEC play, Kentucky has put together six consecutive wins, including a 20-point blowout in Athens, a big road win at 14th-ranked Auburn, a 21-point blowout of 22nd-ranked Mississippi State and now a nice win over ninth-ranked Kansas. If you’re not impressed by that two-week run, please stop watching college basketball because you’ll never be happy. Get out.
Truth be told, this team is as good as anyone in the country right now and only getting better with each game. If you still think they’re not capable of some March Madness magic, you’re going out of your way to be negative. The team that lost by half a million in the first game of the season has turned into a serious contender for the grand prize and, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trade rosters with any team in the country.
Kentucky is for real.