Bill Self had never lost 4 straight at Kansas coming into Saturday night’s game against Kentucky.
He still hasn’t.
In the final edition of the Big 12-SEC Challenge, the Jayhawks represented their conference well, despite one of the toughest matches of this year’s slate, a primetime game in Lexington. The Jayhawks led for most of this game, but neither team was ever able to really grab a commanding lead. Kentucky led by as many as five, up 11-6 just over four minutes in, but that quickly swung back to a 16-15 advantage for KU. The two teams see-sawed for a bit, but with 9:17 to go in the 1st, Kansas took a lead that, as it turned out, they would never relinquish as they went up 23-22. The Jayhawks led by as many as nine, and went into halftime up 41-34.
Kentucky got the game back to a single possession several times in the second half, but they couldn’t full turn the tables. This time there’s no suspenseful ending to unpack, for once. The Jayhawks just made more plays through the 2nd half, kept Kentucky at arm’s length, and hit a few big shots down the stretch each time Kentucky threatened to go on a run. In the end, KU’s margin of victory was equal to their biggest lead of the game, winning it 77-68 on Kentucky’s home floor.
As for individual performances, after back-to-back four point games, KJ Adams looked more like what we’ve come to expect from him this year, scoring 17 with two steals (and, of course, four fouls). Jalen Wilson once again led the team with 22 points with eight rebounds, but Kevin McCullar was very active for a second straight game, scoring 11 while grabbing 12 boards, and notching two steals plus a block. Gradey Dick’s mini-slump from behind the arc continued as he went just 1-5 from behind the arc, but he found other ways to contribute and getting scoring opportunities, adding 13 points with five rebounds.
It was great to see Kansas win a game again after the last three. But in the Big 12, there’s no rest for the weary. Kansas hosts the second half of this year’s Sunflower Showdown on Tuesday, where the Jayhawks will hope to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Wildcats. The Jayhawks are now 16-4 overall, sitting at 5-3 in league play.