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The No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks defeated the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats in Chicago in the nightcap of the annual Champions Classic event. The contest was full of runs by each team with momentum shifts throughout. The Jayhawks jumped out to an early 11-3 lead, but the ‘Cats recovered to tie the game. Dillingham hit 4 consecutive three-pointers during a first half stretch, as Kentucky led by as many as 12 points late in the first half. Kansas surged to get the game within 7 points at the half with the help of a Hunter Dickinson three-pointer at the buzzer. Kentucky started the second half strong, pushing their lead to 14 before collapsing down the stretch. The final 10-minutes of action could be compared to a heavyweight fight. Each team threw their punches but responded with each shot and momentum swing. The Jayhawks experience prevailed in the end, with the ‘Cats succumbing to Freshman mistakes in the waning seconds. It was an entertaining game for both players and fans and gave a potential glimpse to what each team could be by March.

The biggest takeaway for the ‘Cats despite the loss? Kentucky Basketball is back. With former star PG John Wall on the sidelines, it felt like 2010 in the United Center on Tuesday night. Kentucky and Calipari haven’t fielded a roster with this much talent since 2017, their last deep run into March. Headlined by DJ Wagner, Rob Dillingham, Justin Edwards and Reed Sheppard, Kentucky basketball is fun to watch. The blazing pace of play from Kentucky is a stark change from the lethargic and unintentional style of play the ‘Cats have featured in recent years. Kentucky got up 76 shots with 38 three-point attempts against Kansas. The 38 3PT attempts are the most under a Calipari coached team at Kentucky. The young Freshman weren’t afraid of the moment, and while Wagner and Edwards struggled (1-18 FG/FGA combined), Dillingham and Sheppard rose to the occasion. With the ‘Cats still without any of their three 7-foot centers, the team only has room to improve and grow (literally) as the season progresses.

The spread for Tuesday night’s matchup was -6.5 (Kansas) and the over/under for the game was 148.5.

The Kansas starting lineup featured a slew of veterans. Led by Dujuan Harris Jr. at PG, the lineup also included Elmarko Jackson, Kevin McCullar Jr., KJ Adams Jr., and star C Hunter Dickinson (Michigan transfer).

Kentucky’s starting lineup featured DJ Wagner, Antonio Reeves, Justin Edwards, Adou Thiero, and Tre Mitchell.

Game Recap:

First Half

Kansas won the toss and missed the opening shot. Edwards missed an open three for Kentucky. Harris made the first shot of the game, a wide-pen three, followed by an Adams hook shot to put Kansas up 5-0. Dickinson made a putback and the ‘Cats lost the ball with physical Jayhawk defense. Kansas got out to a quick 9-0 lead to begin the game. Thiero scored the first points of the game for the ‘Cats with a three-pointer. Reeves took the ball to the paint and drew a foul. Kansas led 11-3 at the first media timeout. Dillingham and Burks are the first players off the bench for Kentucky. The game picked up pace and Dillingham found Mitchell underneath for an and-one opportunity. Sheppard checked in for Kentucky at the dead ball. Kansas led 11-6 after the made free-throw. Sheppard found a loose ball and threw the ball full court to an open Dillingam for a dunk. Dillingham found Mitchell for a wide-open three to tie the game at 11, an 8-0 run by Kentucky. The lightning-fast pace continued with transition opportunities for both teams, and stifling defense by Kentucky. A mass sub of Wagner, Thiero, and Reeves entered for Kentucky. Sheppard finished a 5-0 Kansas run with a corner three to make the score 16-14 Jayhawks. Sheppard drained a deep three to give Kentucky its first lead at 17-16. McCullars made an and-one chance to send the game to a timeout. Kansas led 18-17 with 9:38-minutes to play. Sheppard picked up his second foul on a very questionable call with 8:50-minutes to play. Reeves checked in for Sheppard. Kansas took a 21-17 lead after two free-throws. Dillingham crafted his way to a floater to end the Kansas run. Kansas led 23-19 at the under 8-minute media timeout. Thiero made an athletic drive to the rim for an easy lay-in. Dillingham nailed a three off a Burks find to narrow the Kansas lead to 25-24. Burks grabbed a rebound and Dillingham drove to the bucket and drew a foul. Dillingham nailed another three to push the ‘Cats in front 27-25 with 6-minutes to play. Dillingham pulled up for a heat check three and got it, then the ‘Cats left Harris wide-open for a three to tie the game at 30. Dillingham shot another heat check three and got it again, followed by a Reeves transition three as the United Center exploded with ‘Cats fans. Kentucky led 36-30 with 4:37-minutes to play. Edwards went to the free-throw line for a one-and-one. He hit 1 of 2 to give Kentucky a 37-30 lead. Adams ended a 7-0 Kentucky run. Kentucky led 37-32 at the under 4-minute media timeout. Adams finished a dunk off of a nifty spin move. Thiero hit 2 free-throws to give Kentucky a 39-34 lead. Dillingham missed a transition layup but Thiero finished the shot with a jam in to push Kentucky in front 41-34. Thiero then got fouled hard on a rebound on the next defensive possession. Thiero hit 2 more free-throws to push the lead to 43-34 ‘Cats. Dillingham picked up his second foul with 2-minutes to play. Reeves went to the line after getting fouled on a putback attempt. Reeves hit both and gave Kentucky a 45-36 lead. Reeves missed a three after a smothering ‘Cats defense held off Dickinson. Thiero jammed back in the shot and Wagner got fouled in transition on the next possession to go to the charity stripe. Wagner made 1 of 2 and put Kentucky in front 48-36. Mitchell found the missed free-throw and Wagner missed a three, Thiero picked up his second foul and put Dickinson on the line. Dickinson made both and hit a three-pointer at the buzzer that brought the Jayhawks deficit under 10. Kentucky led 48-41 at halftime. The half was dominated by Rob Dillingham for Kentucky, who accumulated 16 points in just 10 minutes of action. The Kentucky defense held Dickinson quiet for the majority of the half until the final 30-seconds when he rattled off 5 points. Dickinson finished the half with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Thiero followed Dillingham’s 16 points with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Sheppard played just 6 minutes with 2 fouls. Kentucky shot 36% from the field but 39% from three-point range, making 9 first half threes. The ‘Cats defense held Kansas to 42% shooting and 27% from three. Kentucky outrebounded Kansas 23-21 in the first half. The ‘Cats young team committed just 3 first half turnovers, keeping with the season trend.

Halftime: Kentucky 48 – Kansas 41

Second Half

The second half began with Wagner driving to the basket and drawing a foul late in the shot clock. Wagner hit 1 of 2 free-throws for just his second point of the game. Wagner got the long rebound and drove to the bucket for an athletic lay-in to give Kentucky a 51-41 lead. Mitchell rejected Adams, but Kentucky lost the ball on a bad turnover. Reeves drew a foul on a floater, Harris received his third foul of the game. Reeves hit both free-throws to give the ‘Cats a 53-41 lead. Wagner didn’t hustle back on defense and then got called for a foul and gave Kansas an and-one opportunity. Wagner was pulled for Dillingham immediately. Kansas cut the lead to 53-44 Kentucky. Reeves responded with a deep three to re-establish a 12 point lead, 56-44 with 17-minutes to play. Burks saved a ball to Dillingham and the ‘Cats failed to score in transition. Reeves bumped a guy down low for an easy score. Harris responded with his third three of the game. Kentucky led 58-47 at the under 16-minute timeout. Kansas cut the lead to 10 with a free-throw. Sheppard checked back in for Kentucky. Dillingham picked up his third foul with 15-minutes to play. Dillingham blew by the defense and drew another foul. Dillingham hit both free-throws for a 60-49 Kentucky lead. Mitchell had an outstanding defensive play on Dickinson to get the ball back for the ‘Cats. Dickinson reached over defenders for an and-one opportunity. Kentucky led 60-52 after the free-throw. Mitchell made a post move and got fouled to go to the free-throw line. Mitchell missed both free-throws. Adams converted another and-one chance to narrow the ‘Cats lead to just 6 at 60-54 with 14-minutes to play. Edwards airballed a three and Adams threw down a slam to cap a 7-0 Jayhawks run over just 44-seconds. Reeves nailed a mid-range jumper to end the run out of a timeout. Adams scored again and Dickinson jammed one in to narrow the lead to 2. Dickinson put another back in to tie the game at 62. McCullars converted another and-one to head into the under 12-minute timeout and give Kansas a 64-62 lead. Kansas rode a 15-2 run over the last 3-minutes of action. Reeves tied the game with a three at 65 all. Sheppard blew by a defender, forcing a foul and a free-throw chance. Sheppard made both free-throws to regain the lead for Kentucky, 67-65. Dillingham picked up his fourth foul with 10-minutes to play, forcing Wagner to re-enter the game. Dickinson gave the Jayhawks the lead with free-throws, 68-67. Sheppard tied the game at 70 with a three-pointer. The game was tied at 70 all at the under 8-minute timeout with 7:18-minutes to play. Thiero hit 1 of 2 free-throws to give Kentucky a 71-70 lead. Adams regained the Jayhawks lead. Thiero powered through an uncalled foul for a 72-71 ‘Cats lead. Reeves weaved through transition for an and-one opportunity. The score was 76-72 Kentucky after the free-throw. Adams went to the line for the Jayhawks after a Burks foul. Adams missed both free-throws. Sheppard drove straight by his defender for an easy layup to give Kentucky a 78-72 lead with 5:35-minutes to play. Kentucky had a 7-0 run over the course of just 50-seconds of action. Adams followed a missed shot then Jackson went to the line for two shots. Jackson made 1 of 2. Kentucky led 78-75. Mitchell was gifted a foul late in the shot-clock. Mitchell hit 1 of 2 free-throws for a 79-75 ‘Cats lead. Adams fouled out on a loose ball foul on Reeves. Kentucky led 79-75 at the under 4-minute media timeout with 3:46-minutes to play. Reeves hit both free-throws to give the ‘Cats a 81-75 lead. Harris hit another three to draw the Jayhawks within 3. Reeves crafted his way to a floater. Harris hit another three to make the score 83-81 Kentucky. Harris went to the line and tied the game at 83 al with 2:30-minutes to play. Dickinson flopped into a foul and two shots. Two makes gave Kansas a 85-83 lead with 2-minutes to play. Mitchell was fouled and went to the line for two shots with 1:33-mintues to play. Mitchell hit 1 of 2 and the ‘Cats trailed 85-84. Dickinson scored and Reeves failed to connect on two threes for the tie. Kansas led 87-84 with the ball with 32-seconds to play. Kentucky locked the Jayhawks down to force a shot-clock violation with 19.6-seconds left. Kentucky ball with the game on the line. The ‘Cats couldn’t get a clean look and Kansas got the rebound and went to the line for free-throws. Kentucky fell to Kansas 89-84. Kansas finished the game on an 11-1 run over the last 3-minutes, while holding Kentucky without a made field goal.

Final: Kentucky 84 – Kansas 89

Game Stats:

Kansas FG %: 47% (33% 3PT – 6 of 18) (75% FT – 27 of 36)

Kentucky FG %: 33% (32% 3PT – 12 of 38) (73% FT – 22 of 30)

Rebounds: 45 – 42 Kansas

Assist/Turnover Ratio: Kansas – 22:14, Kentucky 14:8

Turnovers: Kentucky (8), Kansas (14)

Points off Turnovers: 14 – 12 Kentucky

Fast Break Points: 13 – 13 Tie

Paint Points: 42 – 24 Kansas

Bench Points: 31 – 4 Kentucky

Player Stats:


Hunter Dickinson – [(27 points) (21 rebounds) (3 steals)]

Dajuan Harris Jr. – [(23 points) (2 rebounds) (7 assists) (1 block)]

KJ Adams Jr. – [(16 points) (4 rebounds) (3 assists) (2 steals) (1 block)]

Kevin McCullar Jr. – [(12 points) (10 rebounds) (10 assists) (1 steal) (1 block)] *3rd triple-double in Kansas Basketball history

Elmarko Jackson – [(7 points) (1 rebound) (2 assists) (1 steal)]

Parker Braun – [(2 points) (2 rebounds) (1 block)]

Jamari McDowell – [(2 points) (1 rebound)]

Nicolas Timberlake – [(2 rebounds)]


Antonio Reeves – [(24 points) (8 rebounds) (1 assist)]

Adou Thiero – [(16 points) (13 rebounds) (1 assist)]

Tre Mitchell – [(8 points) (6 rebounds) (3 assists) (2 steals) (2 blocks)]

DJ Wagner – [(4 points) (2 rebounds) (1 assist) (1 steal)]

Justin Edwards – [(1 points) (4 rebounds) (2 assists) (1 block)]

Rob Dillingham – [(18 points) (2 rebounds) (3 assists) (2 steals)]

Reed Sheppard – [(13 points) (1 assist) (4 steals)]

Jordan Burks – [(4 rebounds) (2 assists)] *led the team with a plus/minus total of + 19 in 10 minutes

No. 17 Kentucky’s next game is Friday, November 17 versus the Stonehill Skyhawks (1-2) at Rupp Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be available on SEC +.

No. 1 Kansas’s next matchup is in the Maui Invitational next Monday, November 20 against the Chaminade Silverswords. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

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