The battle of blue blood programs lived up to the billing.
No. 9 Kansas and No. 8 Kentucky traded punches during a gritty, slugfest in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge Saturday afternoon. In the end, though, the Wildcats delivered the decisive blows in the second half to secure a 71-63 victory over the Jayhawks in Rupp Arena.
The win by Kentucky (16-3) snapped a three-game skid against Kansas (16-4) in the series between the two winningest programs in college basketball.
In the loss, Dedric Lawson led the way with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Quentin Grimes scored 13 points, while Lagerald Vick recorded 10 points.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Kentucky went on an 8-0 run midway through the second half.
Despite the Jayhawks throwing a triangle-and-2 defense at the hosts, the Wildcats scored eight unanswered points to turn a tie game into 52-44 lead between the 12:31 mark and the 10:44 mark in the second half.
Over this stretch, Reid Travis hit a layup and Keldon Johnson drilled a 3-pointer. PJ Washington also netted a layup and made a free throw attempt. The run was enough for the Wildcats to take the lead for good.
• Offensive highlight: Before the season even began, KU coach Bill Self lauded Lawson’s passing ability.
That trait hasn’t been on display as much without starting center Udoka Azubuike, who sustained a season-ending injury in January. In the first half, though, Lawson flashed his passing prowess to help spark a significant stretch for the Jayhawks.
From under the basket, Lawson somehow found freshman Ochai Agbaji open on the perimeter. He fired a pass his way, and Agbaji drained the 3-pointer.
• Defensive highlight: It is no secret that Kansas sophomore Marcus Garrett is the team’s best defensive player.
Most of the time, Garrett’s defensive presence is felt with his ability on the ball. He understands what opponents are trying to do against him, due to his attention to detail of the scouting report. Garrett can also get in the passing lanes against nearly any opponent.
But Garrett’s best defensive play against UK came off his own mistake. After his turnover, Garrett saved an easy basket by Kentucky with a block at the 7:10 mark in the first half, swatting a transition layup attempt.
•Up next: Kansas travels to Texas at 6 p.m. Tuesday.