LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Coaches probably hate having a tough nonconference game like Kansas-Kentucky in the middle of league play, but Saturday’s Big 12-SEC Challenge proves we could use a few more of these type of matchups.
This open weekend before the Super Bowl would be the perfect time every year for college basketball to claim the spotlight of the sporting world.
Kansas' 90-84 overtime win over Kentucky was a championship-level game -- it even brought out James Naismith in the form of little kid dressed up in his likeness -- and we’re still more than a month away from the NCAA tournament.
More thoughts on the game:
Little big man
Kansas tried a little bit of everything and everyone on Kentucky’s 5-foot-9 guard Tyler Ulis. None of it was too successful. At least four different Jayhawks defenders had their shot at trying to stop him, including guards Frank Mason III, Devonte' Graham and Lagerald Vick. Even 6-foot-7 Brannen Greene found himself matched up with Ulis on a couple of possessions. Ulis, who finished with 26 points and eight assists, did the same thing to all of them.
When Ulis wasn’t flat-out driving past them, he used step backs, up and unders, and shot fakes, or he dished to open teammates for baskets. It caused KU coach Bill Self to use a triangle-and-2 defense in the second half just to get Ulis and the Wildcats out of rhythm.
Veterans coming through
Kansas junior Wayne Selden Jr. scored a career-high 33 points and kept the Jayhawks close during times in the second half when Kentucky had all the momentum and it seemed the game was slipping away. When this version of Selden shows up, the Jayhawks are tough to beat.
Kansas senior forward Perry Ellis never quite got into the flow of the game after two early fouls kept him sidelined for all but six minutes in the first half. It was arguably his worst offensive performance since going 1-for-8 with five points against Vanderbilt on Nov. 25. Ellis was 1-of-4 from the floor in regulation but came up with a key offensive rebound with less than two minutes left in regulation that allowed the Jayhawks to tie the game. He also put aside his struggles from the free throw line; he was 5 of 10 before making a free throw with nine seconds left to send it to overtime.
So much potential
For a brief period in the first half, Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere and Kansas’ Cheick Diallo were on the floor at the same time defending each other. When the game was first scheduled, it seemed like that matchup had the potential to be a game within the game, as Labissiere was ranked No. 2 and Diallo No. 7 in the ESPN 100 for the Class of 2015. It hasn’t quite turned out like that. Neither player has been a major factor for their respective teams. Like many of their peers in the Class of 2015, the talent is apparent, but they need more time to develop.