On Saturday night, the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks picked up their most impressive win of the season, going into Rupp Arena and upsetting the No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats in a thrilling game.
The Jayhawks were run out of West Virginia after a discouraging 16-point loss to the Mountaineers on Tuesday, but Kansas bounced back in a big way to move to 19-2 on the season.
Fireworks and fog machines accompanied a heavyweight boxing match-style introduction in the 23,000-seat Rupp Arena to get the crowd fired up, but when the 20 minutes started ticking, Josh Jackson and Frank Mason were the difference-makers. Jackson dropped the first bucket of the game, in a match expected to spotlight the freshmen. By the first media timeout, both squads were going back and forth with Kentucky leading by just one. Malik Monk, much like his performances all season, got off to a fast-paced scoring start, putting up 10 early points just nine minutes in. Kansas was already falling behind, trailing Kentucky 20-10 by the second media timeout. Meanwhile, in Frank Mason Land, the veteran senior picked up his eighth point on a reverse layup, cutting the UK lead to 22-13. Minus a few layups and inside jumpers, Kansas was struggling to hit any shot, missing their first five three point attempts.
Josh Jackson and Malik Monk caught a lot of national attention leading up to this game, as both are making star performances early in their basketball careers. Much to the hype, the guards had combined for 20 points by the third media timeout of the first half. Kentucky still held a convincing lead at that point, up 31-20 over the depleted Jayhawks. Good hands defensively and smart passes led Kansas to a 10-2 run, taking a five-point deficit to the locker room, in a first half which they shot 0-8 from three.
It only took a minute for Kansas to take the lead out of halftime. Josh Jackson buried two threes on back-to-back possessions, giving Kansas the 33-32 edge before Kentucky hit two threes of their own to take a 38-33 lead. Kansas and Kentucky would score back and forth, and by the media timeout, UK had held a narrow lead, 47-44, over the Jayhawks. Derek Willis (another tall, awkward-looking guard) was on fire from three. Willis was 5-5 from downtown, keeping Kentucky a few points ahead of Kansas.
The Jayhawks finally had their chance to mount a lead on Kentucky. A couple of Landen Lucas buckets in the paint and some much-needed Jayhawk threes gave Kansas a 58-54 lead with 9:28 left to play. A quick 5-0 Kentucky run would answer the Jayhawks, giving UK a 59-58 lead with Frank Mason and Landen Lucas on the bench. Self quickly subbed both back in, not being able to afford the secondary to give them a 10-point deficit. Kentucky mustered a 5-0 run earlier in the half, and Kansas would do the same a few minutes later. Frank Mason buried a wide-open three to give KU a four-point lead. Kansas then started up another run after the timeout, this one 6-0, to force Calipari to call another timeout with UK trailing by 10.
Four more minutes. Close it out, and head back to Lawrence with a gigantic road win at the No. 4 team in the nation. Malik Monk was not going to let Kentucky fall like that.
The heralded freshman guard buried a three with Svi in his face, cutting KU’s lead to five. Two crucial plays for the Jayhawks, with the shot clock winding down, gave Kansas two points on a Svi bucket and Josh Jackson putback. The Jayhawks held on, completing the improbable win, defying the odds and sending Big Blue Nation for the exits early. With the big win, Kansas moved to 19-2 on the year, going 1-1 in their hardest week of basketball before they are set to see Baylor at home on Wednesday.
- Frank Mason, Josh Jackson combine for 41 points (21 for Mason, 20 for Jackson)
- Josh Jackson records double-double (20 pts, 10 reb)
- Kansas turns improbable odds, as Kentucky has gone 75-2 when being a top five team in Rupp Arena
- Another blue-blood victory for Kansas, who has now beaten previously-No. 1 Duke and No. 4 Kentucky away from Allen Fieldhouse.
Catch the Jayhawks as they return to Allen Fieldhouse on February 1 to face the Baylor Bears; Baylor is tied with the Jayhawks at No. 1 in the Big 12 standings.