Second half surge lifts Wildcats past Jayhawks, 71-63

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Just five field goals over the final 10 minutes of regulation saw KU’s halftime lead slip away as the No. 8/9 Kentucky Wildcats sprinted past the No. 9/10 Jayhawks, 71-63, Saturday night inside Rupp Arena. Redshirt junior Dedric Lawson led the team in scoring for the ninth time this season and posted his NCAA-leading 14th double-double by way of his 20 points and 15 rebounds.
The loss moved the Jayhawks to 16-4 and marked KU’s second loss in the six years of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Kentucky claimed its sixth-straight win and now sits at 16-3 in 2018-19.
It was a cold-shooting start by each side in the opening minutes. Over the first 6:30 of action, both teams combined to go 5-of-24 from the field, which included a 0-for-7 clip from beyond the 3-point line. But the Jayhawks shook off the rusty start and, with Ochai Agbaji’s triple at the 13:19 mark, KU exploded on a 12-0 run to build an early double-digit lead, 16-6, just over midway through the opening half.
Kentucky’s Reid Travis used his prowess in the paint to quickly get his team back in the game. The graduate transfer pulled down four of his six first-half rebounds and scored seven points on a 9-2 UK spirt that helped the Wildcats claw back to within three points, 18-15, with 7:25 to play in the first frame.
Lawson helped keep the Jayhawks in front, collecting his double-double before the halftime buzzer by scoring 11 points and pulling down 11 rebounds within the first 18 minutes of the contest.
The Jayhawks managed only two field goals over the final 4:30 of the half, but four free throws from Marcus Garrett and Lawson helped KU hold on to the narrow margin, 33-30, as the teams broke for intermission.
After the restart the Kentucky 3-pointers began to fall. The Wildcats hit a trio of triples within the first nine minutes of the second half to put KU on its heels, facing its largest deficit of the game at 52-44 at the 10:44 mark. The cold shooting then returned as both teams managed just a field goal apiece over the next four minutes.
A pair of Quentin Grimes triples helped KU stay close despite the Wildcat offense coming alive. His trey at the 4:33 mark pulled the Jayhawks within 57-52 in the midst of a 15-7 UK blitz. Unfortunately for the visitors, Grimes’ two threes were two of just five KU field goals in the final 10:20 of regulation.
Lagerald Vick connected on a pair of threes in the final 1:20 as Lawson added a third triple with 20 seconds left, however the Wildcats closed the game going 9-for-10 from the charity stripe to keep the Jayhawks’ late push a harmless one, closing out the 71-63 victory.
Lawson closed out his 14th double-double of the year by way of his 20 point, 15-rebound outing. The Memphis product also added a pair of assists, a steal and a block. Grimes and Vick were the other two Jayhawks to score in double figures, posting 13 and 10 points, respectively.
KU’s 36.5 percent (23-of-63) clip from the field marked its lowest of the season, while UK’s 17 free throws marked the second-most by a Jayhawk opponent this season.
QUOTES – Full Quotes
Head Coach Bill Self
Opening statement:
“We did some decent things there, but there were too many errors and too many naked possessions offensively where we didn’t get anything out of it and our shot selection was poor, I thought, in the second half. But we tried. If we’d won this game, I’d be happy going home, but trust me, it doesn’t mean that much. When we lose the game, I’m not happy going home, but it’s not going to affect us in any way, shape or form for preparing for our next game. We’ve got to do some things better but we’re so limited right now from a size standpoint. When we play teams who have two true bigs, and one of those bigs is a guard from a skill standpoint, that makes it awfully tough to deal with.”

On the fight Dedric Lawson showed:
“He did a lot of good things, especially the first half, and then we kind of let things get away from us the second half. It was just a game in which we tried until the end, but we didn’t have enough ‘oomph,’ didn’t have enough juice to do enough things to put some real game pressure on them … There were so many times we got the ball inside and then when you play from behind like we did the last seven or eight minutes, when you get fouled, you’ve got to make your free throws. You have (very) little margin for error and we didn’t take full advantage of it.”
NOTABLES – Full Notes

  • The loss ended a Kansas three-game winning streak against Kentucky
  • The loss also made Kansas 2-1 against top-10 teams this season, ending a 13-game Kansas regular-season winning streak versus top-10 foes which started Jan. 4, 2016
  • Kansas led 33-30 at the half marking the 12th time this season KU has led its opponent at the half. The Jayhawks are now 10-2 in those games.
  • Kansas was edged in the rebounding category for the fifth time this season, losing for just the second time in those games.
  • Kentucky became the first team this season to defeat the Jayhawks despite committing more turnovers. KU is now 10-1 when its opponent commits more turnovers this season.
  • UK’s 49 rebounds is the ties for the most given up by the Jayhawks this season and the second largest rebound margin (Baylor) Kansas has faced. 
  • Kansas’ 9 assists were the second fewest by the Jayhawks this season (West Virginia).
  • KU’s 36.5 percent clip from the field was its lowest of the season.
  • For the first time since the 1988-89 season, a Kansas opponent saw three players post a double-double. Kentucky’s  Reid Travis (18 pts, 12 rbs), P.J. Washington (20 pts, 13 rbs) and Keldon Johnson (15 pts, 10 rbs) each posted double-doubles.
  • RS-Junior forward Dedric Lawson racked up his 50th career double-double and the 14th in a KU uniform with his 20 points and 15 rebounds. 
  • Lawson’s 15 rebounds marks the second-straight outing he’s posted 15 rebounds and the third time he has pulled down 15 boards this season. He finished just one rebound shy of his career high (16) which he tallied while at Memphis (Tulane 2/13/16).
  • Freshman guard Quentin Grimes posted his first double digit performance in the last six games scoring 13 points while adding one rebounds and two assists. 

Kansas and Texas will meet for the second time in 15 days when the Jayhawks journey to Austin for the contest on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Tip-off from the Erwin Center is set for 6 p.m., on ESPN. KU, which leads the all-time series with the Longhorns 32-8, came out on top in the first meeting this season, 80-78, in Lawrence. The Jayhawks have won seven of the last eight meetings in Austin, including four-straight.



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