This was the game circled on the calendar since the season started. Rupp Arena was the center of the college basketball world. ESPN’s College Gameday was in Lexington for their 11 o’clock show. Michael Buffer was at center court surrounded by UK’s eight national title trophies when he uttered his “Let’s get ready to Round- Baaalll”. Even the Guinness Book of World Records was in the house for a successful attempt to break the world record noise level set in an indoor arena during a sporting event. This was not just another basketball game. This was Kentucky vs. Kansas. This was the school where basketball was invented coming to the school
that owns the most wins in college basketball history. This was a must win for both teams. Kentucky had lost their last game on the road to a tough Tennessee team while Kansas had lost their last game on the road to a tough West Virginia team.
This was the game of the year for both teams.
Kansas jumped out to an early lead but Kentucky answered. Kentucky looked to get the ball down low to Bam Adebayo early, something that hadn’t been the focus their last few games. Kansas doubled down on Bam and contested every shot. Kentucky took the lead at 9-8 and it looked like they would handle Kansas easily stretching the lead out to 12 about halfway through the first half. Malik Monk scored 12 points in the first 12 minutes of play. After a couple timeouts by Kansas coach Bill Self, Kansas came out in a 2-3 zone that slowed the cats late in the first half. Kansas was 0-8 on three point attempts in the first half and Kentucky ended the half with a 3+ minute field goal drought. Kansas went into the locker room on a 7-1 run cutting the lead to 5 at 32-27.
Out of the half, Kansas’s zone defense shut down UK. Kansas quickly hit a pair of 3 pointers that gave them their first lead of the second half at 33-32. Both teams went back and forth until Kansas went on an 11-0 run and stretched their lead to 10 points with 4:41 to play. Kentucky would cut the lead to 4 points at 77-73 but UK could not get any closer than that and Kansas held on for the win.
Derek Willis and Malik Monk led the cats in scoring with 18 points each. Willis’s 18 was his season high and he shot 5 of 6 from the three-point line with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. Monk was held scoreless after his first 12 points until almost 8 minutes to go in the game leaving him with almost a 20 minute scoring drought which definitely hurt the Cats’ chances of winning. Monk scored in double figures again and stretched his streak of double figure scoring games to 21 straight games, every game this season.
UK’s next game will be Tuesday night in Rupp Arena as they welcome the Georgia Bulldogs to Lexington for a 9:00 p.m. tipoff. Georgia is coming in off of a big win over a good Shaka Smart coached Texas team. The game will be televised on ESPN. Look for the Cats to drop in the rankings this week but look for Cal to right the ship and get the Cats back on track with a win.