No. 4/3 Kansas outlasts No. 7/4 Kentucky, 65-61
CHICAGO – Fourth-ranked Kansas closed the game on a 10-4 run to overcome No. 7 Kentucky, 65-61, Tuesday night at the Champions Classic inside United Center. Svi Mykhailiuk led the 2-0 Jayhawks with 17 points and was joined by three teammates in double figures to lift KU to its third-straight victory over UK (2-1).
In their seventh meeting in eight seasons, and third in the Champions Classic, the two blue-blood programs didn’t disappoint. The contest featured 10 ties and 12 lead changes, and neither team led by more than four points over the final eight minutes of the game.
Kentucky seemed to have the momentum late, fighting its way to a 57-55 lead with less than four minutes to play. The experienced Jayhawks didn’t waiver, however, and key 3-pointer from Malik Newman with two minutes left highlighted KU’s late-game run.
Senior Devonte’ Graham also chipped in three pressure-filled free throws in the final moments, as KU pushed its record against the Wildcats to 6-3 under Self.
Some hot shooting by Lagerald Vick and Mykhailiuk got the Jayhawks out to a fast start against the young Wildcats, who started four true freshmen and a redshirt freshman. The 4-of-7 combined shooting from Vick and Mykhailiuk in the early possessions, which included a pair of 3-pointers, pushed the Jayhawks out front, 13-7, by the first media timeout.
After a Graham steal and lay-up, Udoka Azubuike kick-started a fast-break with the first of his two blocks. The ensuing break resulted in a Newman trey capped an 11-0 KU run and gave the Jayhawks their first double-digit lead of the game at 18-7.
The Wildcats clawed the KU lead back down to single digits, however, and eventually tied the game on Wenyen Gabriel’s jumper with just over six minutes to play in the half. But the Jayhawks closed the half making just 2-of-12 from the field, and the Wildcats took advantage. They grabbed their first lead with just over two minutes remaining in the half when Gabriel converted on a free throw to put UK up 33-32.
That Wildcat lead lasted just 14 seconds. Newman converted on a quick lay-up at the other end, and the Jayhawks led, 34-33, at halftime.
The lead changed hands eight times in the first eight minutes of the second half. The Jayhawks gained some cushion when they began to get their shooting form back. A Mykhailiuk dunk following a Vick full-court pass seemed to ignite the Jayhawks. On Kentucky’s next possession, the Jayhawks forced UK into its 16th turnover of the game. Azubuike then brought the partisan Kansas crowd to its feet with a thunderous alley-oop dunk that gave KU a 51-45 at the 9:16 mark.
The Jayhawks withstood another UK run in the final eight minutes of the game despite shooting 4-of-15 in that span.
Mykhailiuk tallied 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting the lead the Jayhawks, while Azubuike, Newman and Graham chipped in 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively. Newman was a rebound shy of a double-double, leading the Jayhawks with nine boards.
Kansas and Kentucky ended the game with 39 rebounds apiece; the Jayhawks brought down 18 offensive boards, their most since they pulled down 21 against UMKC on Dec. 6 of last season.
Kansas returns home to host South Dakota State, Friday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m., in Allen Fieldhouse. The game will be televised on Jayhawk TV. Kansas won the only meeting with SDSU, 85-72, on Dec. 4, 1984, in Allen Fieldhouse. Coming off an 18-17 record in 2016-17, South Dakota State is the Summit League preseason favorite for 2017-18.
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