Seven things you need to know from Kentucky’s frustrating 77-68 loss to No. 9 Kansas

Kentucky Wildcats guard Cason Wallace (22) shoots the ball around Kansas Jayhawks forward Zuby Ejiofor (35) during the game at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, January 28, 2023. Wallace is out for UK’s game at Ole Miss on Tuesday night.

Seven things you need to know from Kentucky’s 77-68 loss to the No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center:

1. Old bugaboos bite the Cats again. Bill Self said in his ESPN halftime interview that the Kansas offensive plan was to get Kentucky into as many ball screens as possible.

Kentucky again struggled to defend the high pick-and-roll, especially in the first half. For all his many attributes, Oscar Tshiebwe is not a stellar defender when confronted with high ball screens.

That played a major role in Kansas opening a 41-34 halftime lead that UK never could overtake.

It was not the only familiar UK issue that reared its head.

Kentucky went 4-of-11 from the foul line in the first half. That is going to bite you every time against a good team. The Cats were 12-of-12 on foul shots in half number two but the damage had been done.

2. Kansas stuffs Kentucky on the offensive glass. At the last TV timeout of the game with 3:37 remaining, Kansas had held Kentucky to two offensive rebounds.

I would not have thought that was possible against a team that has the relentless rebounding force that normally is Oscar Tshiebwe.

For the game, UK finished with only four offensive boards and was outscored 11-0 on second-chance points — which, in a nine-point defeat, was decisive.

3. KU finds its three-point eye. During the three-game losing streak that the Jayhawks brought to Lexington, Kansas made 18 of 69 trey attempts — 26.1 percent.

In Rupp, the Jayhawks got the long-range artillery dialed in. KU hit six of 16 for the game, four of nine in the second half. However, the four second-half treys came in a spurt between the 4:47 and 1:49 marks.

The KU barrage began with the Jayhawks clinging to a 62-60 lead and the Rupp Arena crowd imploring a Kentucky rally.

Instead, Gradey Dick, Jalen Wilson, Kevin McCullar and Wilson again combined to hit four straight three-pointers. At the end of that run, Kansas led 76-68 and the issue was pretty much decided.

4. Cats take another “L” vs. a ranked team. Kentucky failed in its bid to earn back-to-back wins over AP Top 10-ranked foes. The loss to the No. 9 Jayhawks followed UK’s upset of No. 5 Tennessee in Knoxville two weeks ago.

UK has not beaten teams ranked in the AP Top 10 back-to-back since whipping No. 5 Kansas 72-40 in the Champions Classic and No. 6 Texas 63-51 in Rupp Arena in 2014-15.

Kentucky is now 5-15 in its last 20 games against ranked foes since the start of the 2020-21 season.

5. Calipari vs. the blue bloods. John Calipari is now 5-5 as Kentucky head man vs. Kansas.

The UK head coach now has a winning mark vs. only one of the three other men’s college hoops “blue-blood programs” (I would argue there are only four college hoops blue bloods presently).

At UK, Calipari is 7-4 vs. North Carolina.

He is 1-3 vs. Duke.

6. KU gains in all-time wins. With its victory, Kansas now has 2,374 wins in its men’s hoops history. The Jayhawks pulled seven victories ahead of Kentucky, 2,367 wins, in the battle to be the all-time college hoops wins leader.

KU entered the season four games ahead of UK.

7. The SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The final year of the annual one-day event pitting the Southeastern Conference vs. the Big 12 yielded a decisive 7-3 win for the Big 12.

All-time, the Big 12 will hold a 5-3-2 all-time advantage over the SEC in the Challenge.

Kentucky will finish 5-4 in the Challenge, while Kansas will end 6-4. Kansas will finish 3-2 head-to-head vs. Kentucky in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Next year, the SEC will begin an annual challenge with the ACC.

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