Cats can’t stop Kansas down the stretch – Winchester Sun
Cats can’t stop Kansas on the track
Published Monday January 30, 2023 11:53 am
Kentucky just couldn’t stop Kansas when it counted.
The Wildcats gave the defending champions all they could take before the No. 9 Jayhawks pulled away in the final five minutes and walked away with a 77-68 win on Saturday night. The loss ended Kentucky’s modest four-game winning streak, while Kansas ended a rare three-game slip in the final Big 12 SEC challenge between the two Power 5 conferences.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari. “Give them credit. They were physical; Their ball sieves were really physical and threw us off a couple of occasions. They came straight at us that way and they deservedly won the game by making (four) three-pointers on the track. You have to do these kinds of plays and they did them.
Kansas (17-4) was never behind in the second half, making four of its 3-pointers in the last five minutes to repel Kentucky’s second attempt at a signature win over a ranked opponent this season. The Wildcats fell to 14-7 for the year and have little room for error to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.
While Kansas couldn’t miss in the final minutes, especially from a distance, Kentucky only made one of their last seven shots from the field and ended up failing at 2:11.
“We took a tough loss,” said Jacob Toppin, a senior from Kentucky. “We made a couple of mistakes on track that cost us the game but we’re still together and we’re not going to break up now. We’ve been through worse.”
Kansas coach Bill Self compared his team’s narrow win to Kentucky’s 63-56 win at No. 4 Tennessee on January 14th. The veteran coach was pleased with his team’s ability to avenge last year’s setback against the Wildcats. In one of Kentucky’s best performances last season, the Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks 80-62 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.
And it was the four triple clutch threes late in the second half that made the difference for Self’s side.
“When they do three-pointers like that, it’s really hard to beat a team,” said Kentucky senior guard Antonio Reeves. “We just have to figure out how to protect ourselves from things like this. (The other team) Doing threes and us doing twos is always disconcerting.
Not only did the Jayhawks make clutch shots after the Wildcats closed the lead to two points four times late in the second half, but they rebounded the hosts 34-29 but did most of the damage at the defensive end of the court. The Wildcats managed just two offensive rebounds — both from Oscar Tshiebwe — and no second chances
“We hadn’t thrown the ball back like that in a long time,” Self said. “We did a great job on the glass.”
Calipari was surprised his team had no offensive rebounds against the Jayhawks despite a height advantage at the post.
“No second chance points? You must be joking,’ he said. “I need to watch the tape and see why this happened.”
Oscar Tshiebwe led Kentucky with 18 points and narrowly missed a double-double with nine rebounds, while Toppin and Cason Wallace each added 14 points. Antonio Reeves brought in at 10 despite missing all three of his long-range field goal attempts.
Overall, Kentucky made just two three-pointers in 13 attempts from the field — both from Wallace in the second half — but still managed to shoot 49 percent from the field.
“We had our chances to win the game,” Calipari said. “I thought we were going to win the game. We had it right there…we fought. They’re a top 10 team and we’re trying to recreate who we are. I was hoping we could do it, but the kids fought and tried.”