Jalen Wilson’s game-high 22 points led four Kansas players in double figures Saturday night as No. 9 Jayhawks ended their three-game losing streak with a 77-68 win over Kentucky in the marquee game of the final SEC/Big 12 Challenge in Lexington, Ky.
KJ Adams Jr. scored 17 points for the Jayhawks (17-4), hitting 8 of 10 shots. Gradey Dick added 13, while Kevin McCullar chipped in an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double. He also swished a critical 3-pointer with 3:09 left that gave Kansas a 73-66 lead.
Oscar Tshiebwe scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Wildcats (14-7), although he managed just nine shot attempts as the Jayhawks kept the ball out of his hands in key moments.
Cason Wallace and Jacob Toppin added 14 points apiece for Kentucky, while Antonio Reeves hit for 10. The Wildcats made 49 percent of their field goal tries, but were only 2 of 13 on 3-point attempts.
Another factor was that Kansas, which has been exploited inside at times during losses to ranked teams Kansas State, TCU and Baylor, made improvements in the lane. The Jayhawks won the rebounding battle 34-29 and gave up only four offensive rebounds, none in the first half. The Jayhawks permitted no points off offensive boards.
Slow starts have been another problem for Kansas in its recent slump, and it was headed toward another one on Saturday. Kentucky got into the paint with impunity as it established a 9-4 lead in the first four minutes.
But the Jayhawks found traction from the paint, of all places. It helped that they drew Tshiebwe’s second foul at the 2:31 mark and forced him to the bench. However, they were controlling the paint even when he was in there.
Kansas earned a 21-13 advantage on the glass in the half, not allowing a single offensive rebound. Its five offensive rebounds resulted in nine points, the difference as it got to halftime with a 41-34 lead.
McCullar was particularly effective under the boards in the first half with eight rebounds.
–Field Level Media