Postgame Report Card: No. 4 Kansas 65, No. 7 Kentucky 61
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 65-61 victory over No. 7 Kentucky in the 2017 Champions Classic at United Center in Chicago.
The Jayhawks made a couple of big shots and plays when they had to have them. And Devonte' Graham and Malik Newman delivered at the free throw line in the closing minutes on an otherwise miserable free-throw-shooting night. Those two factors saved the passing grade. Otherwise, KU had a major off night, shooting just 35.3 percent for the game and struggling to work good offensive possessions time and time again.
KU coach Bill Self said after the game that his team dirtied up the game in order to survive and a big chunk of that came on defense. KU limited Kentucky to 41.8 percent shooting and snagged a dozen steals while playing even on the glass. Beyond that, the Jayhawks allowed Kentucky to hit just three 3-pointers all game.
They had just one big man for the most part, as Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot combined to play 40 minutes, but Azubuike came through when his team needed him most. His production was much bigger than his 13 points and eight rebounds suggests and, by far the most important thing he did was stay out of foul trouble.
The Kansas guards hit some big shots at clutch times, but overall endured a miserable shooting night. Devonte' Graham and Malik Newman combined to make just 7 of 28 attempts and Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk weren't much better. The guards did enough to win on a night when Kansas didn't have anyone else to go to. And the fact that they still found a way to beat a Top 10 team on such an off shooting night illustrates how well they did in others areas.
Marcus Garrett hit a big 3-pointer in the second half and swiped a couple of steals. Mitch Lightfoot competed but didn't produce much in his six minutes on the floor. Given that fact, the bench production, which came from an extremely thin crew, was merely average at best.