LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—It might be another 16 seasons before Kentucky comes back to Allen Fieldhouse.
Before Saturday, the Wildcats hadn’t visited Lawrence since getting blown out 150-95 on Dec. 9, 1989—still a school scoring record for the Jayhawks and the second-worst loss in Kentucky’s history.
This time, the Wildcats left town on the short end of the biggest defeat in Tubby Smith’s nine seasons as coach—a 73-46 loss in which they shot just 24 percent from the field and didn’t have an assist until the second half.
“We just got outworked today,” guard Ravi Moss said. “We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and see if we have any heart. They beat us to loose balls. They were tougher than we were today.”
Freshman Brandon Rush had career highs of 24 points and 12 rebounds, his first double-double for Kansas (9-4).
“I’ve been real guilty of laying back, taking days off and not playing to the best of my abilities,” Rush said. “This was a big game for us, so I had to turn it on.”
Kansas coach Bill Self also had noticed his young star giving less than his all in earlier games.
“Brandon, as everyone knows, is very talented,” Self said. “But he had yet to put a game together where he has excelled in all areas: shooting the basketball, creating off the bounce, rebounding and being aggressive. Previously, he had been great in two of the four, but today he was great in all four areas.”
It was the lowest-scoring game for Kentucky (10-4) since a 46-45 loss to Michigan State on Dec. 16, 2000. The Wildcats’ only other loss of more than 20 points under Smith came earlier this season, a 79-53 defeat at Indiana on Dec. 10.
The Wildcats were 15-for-62 from the field on Saturday, missing their first 13 shots from long range and not recording an assist until Rajan Rondo fed Moss for Kentucky’s first 3-pointer with 14:20 left in the game.
They finished with five assists, three by Rondo.
“Nobody was screening and nobody was passing,” Smith said. “We just dribbled it around and never got in our offense. When you do that, you have no chance of winning.”
Russell Robinson added 12 points and C.J. Giles added 10 for Kansas, which won its sixth straight, broke Kentucky’s four-game winning streak and beat a ranked team for the first time in three tries this season.
“Today, we did a good job of showing the fans we can do it,” Robinson said. “We played a good game against a good team. Now, we’ve got to keep it up.”
The Jayhawks led 41-19 at halftime behind 16 points from Rush, and were up by as many as 32 points in the second half.
Kentucky missed 17 of its first 20 shots, going 0-for-7 from outside the arc over that span, and didn’t break into double digits until Joe Crawford connected from the lane with just over 6 minutes left in the first half.
Kansas led 25-10 after Crawford’s basket—and Rush had single-handedly outscored Kentucky 11-10. The Wildcats didn’t get ahead of him for good, 18-16, until Rondo hit two free throws with 1:14 left in the first half.
“You would think one of our players would read the scouting report and make him go left one time, but that didn’t happen all day,” Smith said. “That said, he’s a great player.”
Rondo and Crawford had nine points each for Kentucky—the first time this year the Wildcats have gone without a double-digit scorer.
“We just cut the head off of their team, and that was Rondo,” Rush said. “He couldn’t get anything.”
With the score tied at 4 almost four minutes into the game, Rush tracked down an offensive rebound after a flurry of misses and scored.
He followed that up with a 3-pointer on Kansas’ next possession, Mario Chalmers added an assist and a layup in quick succession, and the Jayhawks were off on a 19-4 run that put them up 25-8 with just over 6 1/2 minutes left in the half.
Had the Jayhawks made a few more defensive rebounds, Kentucky would have scored just four points in the first 15 minutes. Three of the Wildcats’ first five field goals and their first two free throws came after they were able to rebound their own misses.
An 8-0 run, capped by two baskets by Giles, put Kansas up 66-34 with just under 8 1/2 minutes left in the game.