Kansas defeats Kentucky, 79-73

  • 5 p.m., Jan. 28, 2017
  • Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Elite Experience: Jayhawks rely on veterans in come-from-behind win over Kentucky

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) turns to the bench with excitement as the Jayhawks pulls away during the second half against Kentucky, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) turns to the bench with excitement as the Jayhawks pulls away during the second half against Kentucky, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.


— The games-played experience factor in the starting lineups favored Kansas, 426-132, and the second-ranked Jayhawks used every bit of wisdom at their disposal to knock off No. 4 Kentucky, 79-73, in the featured game of the fourth annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge Saturday night at Rupp Arena.

Facing four fantastic freshmen and one super sophomore in Kentucky blue, KU’s crew of two seniors, two juniors and one freshman rallied from a 12-point first-half hole to control most of the second half en route to the bragging-rights victory.

“I thought we showed extreme upperclassman leadership tonight,” KU coach Bill Self said after the win. “And I thought we played pretty tough. But I told ’em it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t gather momentum from this and build off of it. I think our guys are really excited, not that we played great. I think they were excited because we didn’t play great and we fought through it and we ended up winning the game.”

KU’s starting five of Frank Mason III (21 points), Landen Lucas (13), Devonte’ Graham (12), Svi Mykhailiuk (8) and Josh Jackson (20 and 10 rebounds) combined to score all but five of KU’s points and played 168 of 200 minutes.

With NBA scouts in all corners of the building and Big Blue Nation roaring from start to finish, the Jayhawks (19-2 overall, 7-1 Big 12) and Wildcats (17-4 overall, 7-1 SEC) put on a show that lived up to the sensational hype that preceded Saturday’s blue blood battle of the two winningest programs in college basketball history.

The game’s opening minutes featured a dose of just about everything analysts, fans and the players and coaches themselves expected.

Both teams played fast. Kentucky, which missed its first five shots before scoring, pounded it inside to Bam Adebayo (10 points, 8 rebounds) repeatedly. And the pregame atmosphere featured a lot of noise, hype and excitement. Kansas led in the early going but quickly found the game slipping away when the Wildcats unleashed a 13-2 run midway through the first half to build a 10-point lead.

“I thought this could get ugly really fast,” Self admitted after the game. “I thought it was already ugly.... We didn’t shoot it at all, we played tight and they had all the momentum.”

But a strategic call from the KU bench, moving from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone slowed the game down and paved the way for the Jayhawks to crawl back into it. Despite trailing 29-17 with 4:58 to play in the first half, the Jayhawks trailed by just five — 32-27 — at the break thanks to that zone defense and a 10-3 run to close the first half.

“There’s not gonna be any educational tapes on that zone tonight,” Self said. “But I do think we played it pretty well. It helped us. We would not have won the game unless we switched up.”

Added Mason of the switch to zone: “Hopefully we don’t have to do that moving forward because we take pride in playing man-to-man, but whatever helps us get the win, we’re willing to do.”

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Jackson, Mason break down comeback win at Kentucky

Josh Jackson and Frank Mason break down KU's comeback at Kentucky.

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With momentum resting in the Kansas locker room, the Jayhawks regrouped and started the second half with a statement. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Josh Jackson, who has hit 8-of-14 from 3-point range in the past three games, gave Kansas its first lead since 8-7 and helped return the swagger to the Kansas bench.

“We went down 12 points at one time, but we all had it in our heads that we were gonna come back,” Jackson said.

For the next several minutes, the teams battled back and forth, with Kentucky maintaining a slim lead and Kansas charging hard. Lucas’ tip-in with 12:55 to play put KU back on top and, from there, Kansas trailed just one more time.

Jackson was a big reason for that. Not only did the freshman from Detroit outshine all of Kentucky’s brightest stars, he also delivered his best in the game’s biggest moments and recorded his fifth double-double of the season.

A tip-in of his own miss put KU back up one with 7:15 to play and his offensive rebound and put-back with 1:09 to play gave Kansas a seven-point lead.

“I thought he was really good tonight,” Self said of Jackson. “I thought he got his hands on loose balls, he rebounded great, the offensive rebound, put-back late was a huge play. And to me, he’s a complete basketball player. He’s one of the few guys out there that can do a little bit or a lot of everything.”

Added freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot, who played just four minutes while spelling Lucas: “Wow. He just showed you guys why he’s gonna be a top-5 pick in the (NBA) draft. There’s no doubt about that. He’s an amazing player.”

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self on KU's big win which capped a tough week

KU coach Bill Self on KU's big win which capped a tough week.

Download podcast

Even though the Kentucky faithful started filing out with around 2:00 remaining, the Jayhawks made things interesting down the stretch, allowing the Wildcats to trim a 69-59 KU lead with 4:41 to play all the way to four, 77-73, with 19.2 seconds remaining.

But Mykhailiuk’s two free throws with 16 seconds to play pushed the margin back to six and Kentucky’s final attempts to crawl closer fell short. Those free throws and a pair by Graham 36 seconds earlier proved to be just enough on another poor-shooting free throw night by the Jayhawks.

“Neither team shot free throws worth a flip,” said Self, whose team finished 10-of-18 from the stripe, just three percentage points worse than Kentucky’s 13-of-22 effort. “I mean, we could’ve won the game easily or they could’ve probably won the game if either team could step up to the line and make free throws.”

True as that may have been, Saturday’s game was not about free throws. It was about stars and hype, play makers and big moments. And the Jayhawks, thanks to all of that experience, had just a few more than the Wildcats on this night.

“It helped us a lot to come in here and get a win against a great team, great program. The tradition is great here,” Mason said. “Just for all the guys to come here and experience that will help us a lot moving forward when it really matters.”

Added Lightfoot, still in awe of what his teammates did to will Kansas to victory: “They’re great and all, but I have Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson. That’s kind of hard to match.”

By the Numbers: Kansas 79, Kentucky 73

By the Numbers: Kansas 79, Kentucky 73

— See what people were saying about the game during's live coverage.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Kentucky


Gary McCullough 5 years, 10 months ago

Look at the photo's of Jackson's offensive rebound at 1:09. Lucas has Bam blocked out and almost pushed out of the paint so Jackson could get to the rebound. Landon was a stud on a night he was guarding the Kentucky Star player.

Ryan Shelton 5 years, 10 months ago

It's encouraging that Coach Self will do what it takes to win this year. A few years ago there's no way he would have swallowed his pride and gone to a zone of any kind. With our limited bench, it is a must to preserve legs that will eventually tire. I get the thinking that our superior athletes can and will match up on defense, no matter the competition, but there are times when ideals need to be brushed aside to give the guys the best chance to win, and I say hurrah to Coach Self for coming upon that insight. That might just be enough to overcome our bad free throw shooting. At least I hope.

Len Shaffer 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm not sure I agree that Self wouldn't have changed up defenses in the past. After all, you might remember that he changed up defenses a little during the run to the title in 2008.

RJ King 5 years, 10 months ago

From 2012 . . .

"Once again Sunday, a switch to a triangle-and-two hybrid zone defense helped Kansas win a close second half game. In the third round against Purdue, Kansas went to its hybrid zone down eight points in the second half and won by three; they've played zone 30 times in their last three games."

They used it against Ohio State, and against UNC, when Roy Williams complained (paraphrasing), "what the hell was that???"

Self seems willing to play how and whomever it takes to win. His timing - of when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em - has not been perfect, but he still has one of the largest pile of chips.

Ryan Shelton 5 years, 10 months ago

Nice evidence to the contrary, RJ. I appreciate that. I agree with your statement that he doesn't always know when to fold them. I think he's getting better at it though.

Tom Jones 5 years, 10 months ago

This is a horribly misinformed post, sorry. Self changes defense all the time when necessary, especially in critical games.

Ryan Shelton 5 years, 10 months ago

With respect, I will disagree. I know you were just using hyperbole when saying "all the time" but the truth remains that Coach Self sticks to his man-to-man philosophy almost all the time. And why shouldn't he? He almost always has the athletes to match up.

Tom Jones 5 years, 10 months ago

All the time, as in year after year, over and over. Other posters have pointed out some of the highest profile examples, but he does it regularly, a few times a year, and he always has. Therefore statements like: "A few years ago there's no way he would have swallowed his pride and gone to a zone of any kind." are just blatanly false. I don't know whether you were misinformed, forgetful or you're just new to being a KU fan...but it's one of these three. ;)

Ryan Shelton 5 years, 10 months ago

You are correct. Saying that he wouldn't have gone to a zone at all is in fact wrong. Hyperbole got the best of me as well. What I should have said is that he historically hates the zone and IMHO is exceedingly reluctant to use it, when there have been times when he should have. It's classical backseat driving on my part, I admit, but it is my informed opinion. I've been a passionate fan of KU sports since 1986, watching most of the basketball and football games played during that span. I have read this site during my lunch every day for nearly the last ten years, but I seldom comment. Now I'm remembering why. I suppose my giddiness at Self's adaptation early on in this game got the best of me. I should have scrutinized it, revised and edited it numerous times before hitting the post button so that the accurate way I felt about Coach Self's bullheadedness would have shined through. To that point, let it be clear that I consider Coach Self one of the best college basketball coaches of all time. That said, he's not infallible, but then who is? There's so much divisiveness on these boards from some of the regular contributors, many of whom harmonize together when singing the rock chalk at the end of a game. Some are good-hearted arguments, while some are purely vile. I swore I wouldn't fit into that second category when posting, and hopefully I have stayed true to that thinking in this debate. I believe you have too, and for that I thank you. Therefore, peace and Rock Chalk!

Kenneth Johnson 5 years, 10 months ago

I can’t tell you how pleased I am with KU’s win over the Wildcats tonite.

First of all, the Jayhawks has some off-the-court issues, and their sub center Bragg was just before the half to put them only 5 down. Then, in the second half, they simply outplayed Kentucky.suspended indefinitely, and they were playing at Kentucky, so my expectations were pretty low.

And the Jayhawks were down by 12 early on and not playing very well. They made a run

And, KU came 1 game closer to Kentucky in the all-time win category and now only trail by only 17 (2222 to 2204). Many of those Kentucky wins were, of course, made by cheating (paying players, recruiting violations, etc.).

Kenn Johnson (KU, MS '70) Author of Kansas University Basketball Legends (2013) and More University of Kansas Basketball Legends (2014), both published by The History Press and available from Amazon.

Len Shaffer 5 years, 10 months ago

A little hard to follow there, Kenn. Maybe you could rewrite it?

RJ King 5 years, 10 months ago

Like Herman Melville and Moby Dick, Kenneth needs a good editor.

Dale Rogers 5 years, 10 months ago

Lots of good things in this article but I think what I absolutely liked the most was Lightfoot's comments. Just hearing these kids who aren't getting many minutes talk that way about those who are says a lot about the camaraderie on this team, the team-first attitude. Wow.

Len Shaffer 5 years, 10 months ago

I had very little confidence going into this game, and I'm thrilled to have been proven wrong. I'm still concerned in the long run about the lack of depth, mediocre-to-awful defense and terrible FT shooting, but I have no doubts about the team's toughness, camaraderie, and skills among the six that do play regularly.

Now we have two wins in a row against UK, and all we have to do is win 14 more in a row against them to tie the series!

Bryce Landon 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm thrilled with the win, because it was in their house, and because we came from down 11 or 12 to do it.

After the WVU game, I appeared on these boards and accused the guys of quitting. I will maintain to my dying day that KU quit against WVU. But that appears to have been a one-off; because there was certainly no quit in KU against UK. When they were down double-digits, they changed their strategy, came back, led by as many as 10 in the second half, and held on for a victory. Quitting is not who our Jayhawks are, not part of their character or DNA. I am as proud of them for yesterday's win as I was ashamed of them for Tuesday's loss.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 10 months ago

Hey Frank, if you guys take so much pride in playing man-to-man, why don't your defensive statistics show it?

Jim Fisher 5 years, 10 months ago

Coach Self wore a red necktie, while Coach Calipari was sporting his Kentucky blue. Do you think their wives got together to decide?

Jay Scott 5 years, 10 months ago

Wasn't there another 7 point underdog with a red tie that won something recently?

Benjamin Clay Jones 5 years, 10 months ago

Yes--the enmity of the entire world. Except for Russia. They love him in Russia.

Jay Scott 5 years, 10 months ago

Good news Benny... Unless you're a welfare cheat, criminal or federal bureaucrat your life will be better the next 8 years. Even though youll likely have no idea why.

RJ King 5 years, 10 months ago

We will see. But honestly, it depends entirely on our individual perspectives and experiences. Can we keep this about sports please?

Tom Jones 5 years, 10 months ago

Please do not feed The Troll.

Thanks, Management

Andy Godwin 5 years, 10 months ago

I didn't have much hope going into the game expecting a high scoring up and down game with another opposing big (Bam Adebayo) posed to a set their career high against a depleted front line. Kudos to Self for finally switching up defenses, allowing Frank and Devonte to play most of the game without being completely gassed while trying to stay in front of UK's youth and as importantly protecting Landen from an onslaught of players driving to the rim - he came up BIG. I was never so glad to be so wrong and was happy for Self to realize zone is not all bad - "We would not have won the game unless we switched up.” Self is clearly the best at managing the ebbs and flows of the game (Andy Reid could learn a thing or two). He can be stubborn to a fault, but has shown creativeness of working with strengths of each player (and thank the heavens for someone as versatile as Jackson) and avoiding trying to put a square peg into a round hole. If Calipari is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, then this is the year that Self should finally be recognized. Now on to Baylor. Go, fight, win.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 10 months ago

How many games have you watched this year? You seem confused.

Gerry Butler 5 years, 10 months ago

Lmao, SOME people we won't say who - -but SOME no matter what are never satisified are we? - -Always got to try and throw some kind of cheap ass punk dig. - Can you tell me what our record is again? - -Go ahead I'll wait - - - - - - -Still waiting - -- - huh what the hell.I would be willing to bet even if we had won by 20 plus SOME would still deem it necessary to try and find negative with the team - -isn't that right Looks like to me along with several others from what I've read off other sites - -seems like Frank and Devonte and others did just fine shutting down Mr Monk & Mr Fox for the majority of the game.- - I've seen individuals her that constantly no matter always got to find or try some way or something to detract from a game or this team- -you are a piece of work. Do you hide out in the closet much? - Are you waiting for that perfect 32-0 record - - roflmmfao, your sad, why don't you just trot on down the innerstate to that Cowtown pig farm univ - I'm sure Brucie would love o have you, Bad defense? I bet there are a lot of people that would LOVE to have Frank and this group. - Ok go back in your little covert. - you should be loaded with awesome statements by then . now till Wednsday -Unbelievable

Noel Graham 5 years, 10 months ago

There are some legitimate criticisms of this team, defense being at the top of that list. If we finish where we are now this would be the worst defensive team during the Bill Self era (using KenPom). Self is playing zone because he has to, not because he wants to. He is doing what he needs to do to put the team in their best position to win which is why he is a future HOFer (hopefully this year). I think you need to be realistic about what this team is good at and where they are deficient compared to Self teams of the past. I don't think many KU fans would trade this team or Coach Self for any other.

RJ King 5 years, 10 months ago

Bryce - Frank said they "take pride" in it. As in, they welcome the challenge. Frank would be the first to admit there is room for improvement.

And Gerry - I don't think Bryce meant it as a cheap ass punk dig. Just an observation. Bill Self has even said this team is hardly one of his better defensive teams. He's also said they have it in them to do better.

No one expects perfection. What's left of this team is so good, but so thin. It's obvious they must shore up their weaknesses - defense and free throw shooting - in order to have a "successful" season - likely defined by XIII and - at the very least - making Elite Eight.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 10 months ago

Agreed, Len and Dale.

Bill Self has made more in-game adjustments throughout the years than I can ever recall. As for defense, the one that sticks the most in my mind is when he put a "junk" defense in the second half on Roy's UNC boys in the 2012 Elite 8. It completely baffled the Tarheels, and KU progressed ultimately to the National Championship game in New Orleans.

I also like Mitch's comments, Dale. This is one first class young man who is going to provide a lot of future highlights for KU. He will play a major leadership role down the road.

Joseph Bullock 5 years, 10 months ago

:aun Do, Did you really say 'without having a 'Center'/ Seriously? Obviously, you don't know anything about basketball, except maybe, who scored the most points in a game! Do you know what it means to know 'angles'? Do you know what it means, to switch off, in 'help defense' (and many times when Landen does that, his man scores, because nobody rotates over! Do you know what it means, to 'Rebound'? Do you know what it means to go 6 for 6 from the field, as Landen did against Kentucky? Do you know what it means to be the 'Center', without Perry Ellis (and Carlton Bragg, being glorified as the one to replace someone who can't really be replaced)? Do you know that Josh Jackson, should be playing the '3', not the '4', so Landen could have some help in the paint! Seriously! Learn the game, before you are so critical of our players-and stop listening to analysts and people who know about as much as you!

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