Be afraid: No. 1 Kentucky scary good in smothering No. 5 Kansas
Kentucky coach John Calipari made one simple adjustment to his game plan Tuesday night.
He scrapped the zone.
The Wildcats didn't need it. Instead, a fierce man-to-man defense got No. 5 Kansas out of sync and No. 1 Kentucky ran away with its most impressive win of the season-- a 72-40 victory in the State Farm Champions Classic.
"We kind of bum-rushed them a little bit and every time they looked there were more tanks coming over the hill," Calipari said. "It wasn't substitutes, it was reinforcements. It kind of gets to you a little bit. "
It also elicited exactly the kind of reaction Calipari wanted from his team.
After Kentucky (3-0) won its first two games by 40 and 19 points, they dominated Kansas despite having only two players reach double figures. Dakari Johnson had 11 points, Andrew Harrison had 10 and Willie Cauley-Stein finished with seven points and 10 rebounds.
But they didn't need big-time scorers Tuesday.
The Jayhawks (1-1) made only 11 baskets -- eight in the first half, three in the second. They shot just 19.6 percent from the field and were 3 of 15 on 3-pointers. Kansas finished with its lowest point total since Bill Self took over as coach in 2003-04, easily falling below the 49-point effort against Arizona in November 2005 and barely avoided becoming the first Kansas team to finish with fewer than 40 points since a 37-point effort against Oklahoma State in February 1962.
Wayne Selden Jr. led the Jayhawks with nine points. Cliff Alexander finished with eight.
"We never once did anything that resembled a team offense at all and I hope they were the primary reason why," Self said after sipping a glass of water and joking that he needed a stronger drink to help ease the pain. "I knew that we haven't practiced well or done some things real well, but I didn't think it would be like this. No matter how bad we shot it the first half we actually proved that we could shoot it a heck of a lot worse in the second."
Kentucky took advantage of Kansas' errant shots and never let up.
The Wildcats jumped to a 35-17 lead with 3:06 left in the first half, then allowed Kansas to close within 38-28 at the half. Kentucky then started the second half with six straight points, didn't allow a basket for almost six minutes, then extended the lead to 64-36 with and continued pulling away.
Kansas finally cracked the 40-point mark when Perry Ellis made two free throws with 2:53 left, but Kansas didn't score again.
"They (Kentucky) are pretty good for this early in the season," said Self, who beat Calipari in the 2008 national championship game. "One thing I would say that would be challenging for them, and this is a compliment to them, right now they're so far ahead where other people are, but other teams have a tendency to get better, too, and there will be teams out there who can challenge them. Whether they can beat them or not, I don't know."
Kentucky: The Wildcats now have a 16-game lead over second-place Kansas for the most wins in college basketball. Kentucky has 2,143 all-time wins and has won in three different buildings in downtown Indianapolis -- the RCA Dome, Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Kansas: The Jayhawks may argue for a different draw in next year's classic draw. They lost to Kentucky in this event in 2011 and to the Wildcats in the 2012 national championship game.
Though the Wildcats didn't have a scoring star Tuesday, they did take advantage of their size. Kentucky outscored Kansas 30-12 in the paint and 19-9 on second chance points. They also grabbed 32 defensive rebounds off of Kansas' 53 missed shots. But Calipari isn't convinced this is Kentucky's best effort. ""No, we're not that good. Next question," Calipari said as his opening statement.
Kansas can't blame all of its offensive troubles on Kentucky's defense. Yes, the Jayhawks only had 11 turnovers. But they also went 15 of 27 from the free-throw line.