University of Kansas

Kentucky rejects KU’s offense, beats Jayhawks 72-40

Kansas's Frank Mason III has his shot blocked by Kentucky's Marcus Lee (00) during the first half of Tuesday’s game in Indianapolis.
Kansas's Frank Mason III has his shot blocked by Kentucky's Marcus Lee (00) during the first half of Tuesday’s game in Indianapolis. Associated Press

Bill Self sat quietly on the Kansas bench, his chin buried into his right palm. For a moment, he forced a wry smile, a face that suggested something between bewilderment and resignation. It was late on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the dismantlement of Kansas in its final stages.

Across the floor, Kentucky coach John Calipari was set for another line change. Five Wildcats stood at the scorer’s table, including two 7-footers. Calipari clapped his hands.

As the clock ticked down on No. 5 Kansas’ 72-40 loss to No. 1 Kentucky in the Champions Classic, it was clear which coach had arrived with a greater arsenal of weapons.

The Kentucky onslaught came in suffocating waves, 7-footer after 7-footer, a swarm of bodies that left the Jayhawks’ offense utterly useless. The Jayhawks, who shot 19.6 percent, the worst mark of the Self era, suffered an early-season beatdown on the national stage.

For Self, the flag came when he sent walk-on Evan Manning into the game with less than five minutes left. The Jayhawks were in the midst of their biggest loss in Self’s 12 seasons at Kansas — the previous had come in a 25-point shellacking at Texas in 2006 — but the Jayhawks’ coach had no interesting in dabbing at the bleeding.

“We’re just not very good,” Self said. “Obviously, I knew we hadn’t practiced well … but I didn’t think it would be like this.”

In less than five months, the Final Four will be back here in Indianapolis. Earlier this month, SMU coach Larry Brown predicted Kentucky would run the table and win the NCAA Title. On Tuesday, that prediction didn’t seem so bold. And perhaps Kansas will have a chance to be there, too. But on Tuesday, it was clear that the Jayhawks have many steps to take by then.

"I don't know who our best players are," Self said. "I don't think anybody knows."

Junior forward Perry Ellis was limited to four points on 1-of-6 shooting; freshman forward Cliff Alexander finished with eight points on 2 of 7 from the floor. The Jayhawks shot 3 of 20 in the second half.

This, in one word, was a mismatch.

“We kind of bumrushed them a little bit,” Calipari said. “And every time they looked, there were more tanks coming over the hill.”

Kansas trailed Kentucky 38-28 after an opening half that often felt like a collection of really tall older brothers blocking shots into the first rows. The Wildcats were the presumptive preseason No. 1. Calipari has collected 7-foot centers like souvenirs, and the Wildcats arrived with four players 6 feet 11 or taller on their roster.

When Kansas coach Bill Self countered with 6-foot-8 forwards Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor in the middle, the size difference was stark. Kentucky’s starting small forward Alex Poythress was as big as anybody Kansas had the on floor.

For stretches of the first half, Kansas’ offense was relegated to sophomore Frank Mason driving wildly into the Kentucky trees. In most every case, the trees won. Kentucky’s length and height was everywhere, putting an impenetrable seal on the Jayhawks’ basket. During the opening 20 minutes, the Jayhawks managed just eight field goals; the Wildcats finished the first half with eight blocks.

During one possession in the first half, with the Wildcats leading 12-9, the Kansas defense covered Kentucky for the full 35 of the shot clock, forcing a bad shot. But out of nowhere flew Kentucky’s Marcus Lee, a reserve who measures 6 feet 9. Lee snagged the rebound, dumped a pass to Kentucky guard Devin Booker, and the Wildcats had a bucket that kick-started a 14-1.

By late in the half, Kentucky had extended its lead to 35-17. The Jayhawks held their own on the glass for a half — they were outrebounded just 26-24 — and they managed to keep the Wildcats under 40 percent shooting. But the Jayhawks had no offensive answer.

“You don’t come to Kansas to have games like that,” Kansas sophomore center Landen Lucas said. “You come to win. And we’re at least expected to make it a competitive game no matter who you’re playing.”

In the moments after the game, Self entered the postgame press conference and saw a bottle of water sitting on a table.

“I was hoping that was vodka,” Self said, taking a swig.

A room of reporters laughed. For the moment, Self believes it’s too early to get discouraged. He mentioned the Chiefs’ slow start. He mentioned others teams who have looked overwhelmed in a season’s opening weeks. His message: It’s early.

"If anything,” Self said, “it’ll make them a little tougher, and that’s good, we’ve got to get tougher.”

Reach Rustin Dodd at rdodd@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rustindodd.

KANSAS

Min

FG-A

FT-A

OR-TR

A

PF

PT

Mason III

32

1-10

5-6

1-1

0

0

7

Selden Jr

25

4-12

0-2

1-4

1

2

9

Oubre Jr

13

2-3

1-2

2-4

0

3

6

Traylor

26

0-6

2-2

3-7

0

2

2

Ellis

21

1-6

2-2

1-2

1

3

4

Alexander

19

2-7

4-8

5-8

0

3

8

Graham

14

0-2

0-1

0-2

0

2

0

Manning

6

0-1

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Mykhailiuk

23

1-5

1-2

1-1

1

0

4

Self

1

0-1

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

Greene

5

0-0

0-0

0-1

1

3

0

Garrett

1

0-1

0-0

1-1

0

0

0

Pollard

1

0-0

0-0

0-1

0

0

0

Lucas

8

0-2

0-2

2-5

0

0

0

Mickelson

3

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Totals

198

11-56

15-27

20-42

4

19

40

Percentages: FG .196, FT .556. 3-Point Goals: 3-15, .200 (Oubre Jr. 1-1, Selden Jr. 1-4, Mykhailiuk 1-5, Manning 0-1, Garrett 0-1, Mason III 0-1, Ellis 0-2). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 3 (Traylor 3). Turnovers: 11 (Mykhailiuk 2, Selden Jr. 2, Oubre Jr., Alexander, Graham, Traylor, Garrett, Greene). Steals: 5 (Manning, Mason III, Oubre Jr., Mykhailiuk, Graham). Technical Fouls: None.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

OR-TR

A

PF

PT

Aa Harrison

21

3-8

0-0

0-2

2

2

8

An Harrison

19

3-5

2-3

0-2

4

3

10

Towns

18

4-8

1-2

1-8

3

3

9

Cauley-Stein

21

3-7

1-3

4-10

1

3

7

Poythress

19

0-5

4-4

1-3

0

2

4

Lee

17

2-3

0-4

3-7

1

3

4

Booker

17

2-8

0-0

0-1

3

1

5

Ulis

17

1-2

2-2

0-2

0

0

4

Malone

1

0-0

0-0

0-1

0

0

0

Lanter

1

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Floreal

1

0-0

1-2

0-0

0

0

1

Hawkins

4

0-0

0-0

0-1

0

0

0

Long

1

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Willis

4

1-1

2-2

0-0

0

0

5

Lyles

19

1-5

2-2

1-4

0

1

4

Johnson

20

5-6

1-2

2-3

1

3

11

Totals

200

25-58

16-26

15-47

15

21

72

Percentages: FG .431, FT .615. 3-Point Goals: 6-18, .333 (An. Harrison 2-2, Aa. Harrison 2-3, Willis 1-1, Booker 1-6, Ulis 0-1, Lyles 0-2, Poythress 0-3). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 11 (Lee 4, Towns 4, Poythress 2, Cauley-Stein). Turnovers: 6 (An. Harrison 2, Ulis 2, Willis, Aa. Harrison). Steals: 5 (Cauley-Stein, Poythress, Lyles, Ulis, Willis). Technical Fouls: None.

Kansas

28

12

40

Kentucky

38

34

72

A—NA. Officials—Joe DeRosa, Doug Sirmons, Mike Roberts.

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