#2 Kansas Jayhawks comeback to hand #4 Kentucky Wildcats second straight loss

#2 Kansas Jayhawks comeback to hand #4 Kentucky Wildcats second straight loss

Kentucky held a 12-point lead in the first half but lost that after Bill Self's Jayhawks started focusing in on defense and hitting shots.

pat-duerr
Pat Duerr

The #4 Kentucy Wildcats were looked primed to blow out the #2 Kansas Jayhawks in a must-win situation having lost to the Tennessee Volunteers on the road just days prior. But, just when Kentucky looked ready to run away with the game, Kansas came roaring back.

Playing Relaxed

Kentucky came out of the gates soaring and running full speed while Kansas attempted to match them. The tempo proved to be too much for the Jayhawks, however, as they went down by 12 midway through the first half.

That is what the Kentucky team with a sense of urgency can do to a top 5 team. They can cause turnovers, force bad shots, and get easy ones in return. That is the Kentucky team that can win it all.

As shown in past losses, though, once Kentucky gets comfortable with a lead they can get a little too comfortable.

Going all the way back to Kentucky's first loss of the season against UCLA, they held a 9-point lead early and the arena was rocking. Kentucky went on to lose the game 97-92 after being down double digits almost the entire second half.

That Kentucky team, the one that loses leads and can't adapt when their opponent does, might not get out of the first round.

Under the Rug

Kentucky's loss is a shame as one Bluegrass native had a phenomenal game that will end up being forgotten.

Derek Willis had 18 points on 5-6 shooting from deep, all in a measly 25 minutes of play. His high level of contribution was the reason Kentucky ever had a lead and managed to keep themselves in it at the end.

Derek Willis (right) blocks layup attempt by Lagerald Vick (left) for one of his two rejections.
(Photo: Mark Mahan/Herald-Leader)

As for Malik Monk, he didn't hit his average, for different reasons.

Monk had 12 points before the game was 12 minutes old, but then the star for the Wildcats didn't score again until late in the second.

Some would believe he went cold, but Monk mostly didn't get any looks. He had one shot attempt for a lot of the second half and began attempting to shoot Kentucky out of a hole when it was too late.

These two players played well for Kentucky, but both their efforts will be put aside because of the loss.

"Zone"-ing In

Kansas can chalk this win up to one change on defense, they started zoning the Wildcats.

Once the Jayhawks went down by 12, Bill Self decided something needed to change out on the court. So, he made Kentucky pass the ball.

That made Kentucky vulnerable, as they turned the ball over 17 times on the night. For a Kentucky team that normally takes care of the ball, they have become turnover prone in recent games.

Kansas' 2-3 zone certainly caused even more problems for Kentucky's passing lanes. The Wildcats began making the wrong passes and often times just made the wrong plays.

This was Kentucky's inability to adjust once the opponent settles into the flow of the game. Kentucky was playing 1-on-1 and once Kansas took that away, the Wildcats lost all momentum.

Player of the Game

Josh Jackson, KU - Kansas' Jackson seemed unstoppable anywhere near the rim in the first half, and became deadly when the deep ball began to fall in the second. His 20 points and 10 rebounds allowed the Jayhawks easy baskets and plenty of second-chance points that did Kentucky in near the end of the game.

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