LAWRENCE, Kan. – How great was it for Kentucky?
With less than four minutes to go Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse the nest of vocal Wildcats fans in Section 13, upper deck, were pleading for the debut of Shaedon Sharpe, a reclassified Canadian star the No. 3 recruit in the Class of 2021.
Everything else was settled. I mean, everything. Kentucky played its game of the year at Kansas. Trey Hastings had the time of his life.
"About three middle-aged old people wanted to beat my ass," said the 20-something Kentucky fan, a Kansas native, watching his Wildcats exit that venerated Allen floor. "I'm just happy we got the win, but I'm happy I'm getting out of here without getting into another fight. They take it a little too personal around here."
How embarrassing was it for Kansas?
Let's just say the fight put up by those Kansas fans jawing at Hastings surpassed the fight put up by the No. 5 Jayhawks.
"This isn't being negative," Kansas Coach Bill Self said. "They had real athletes on the court. Their guys got to a certain level and our guys couldn't quite get to that level."
That might have been the ultimate compliment/summation of No. 12 Kentucky's 80-62 win. When it all comes together for them, this is how the Wildcats can look this season. Kansas being all but non-competitive on the glass was one of the nicer things that could be said about the Jayhawks.
"They punched us in the mouth early," said guard Christian Braun, "and it went from there."
That doesn't happen here. Well, hardly ever. The Jayhawks had won 17 home games in a row. The last loss being by 25 points last January to Texas. The home loss for Self was his 15th at KU, equaling the number of conference championships he has won here.
But this was different and depressing for KU. This was a battle of blue bloods hyped as the centerpiece of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. But it was Kansas that shed the most blue blood. It didn't matter that Kentucky freshman TyTy Washington, a hyped NBA prospect, shot 1 for 9 in his first game back since suffering a sprained ankle last week against Auburn. It looked like the Cats could have won without him. Oscar Tshiebwe did what Oscar Thiebwe does, another double-double (17 points, 14 rebounds).
But both were supporting actors to junior forward Keion Brooks who went for a career-high 27 points. At one point the Indiana native playing in his 67th career game had scored 15 of Kentucky's first 17 second-half points including nine in a row. In a span of 2 minutes, 44 seconds he was fouled four times and made 7 of 8 free throws. Five of his eight rebounds came off the offensive glass.
As Kansas made a run cutting the lead to 14 in the second half, backup forward Jacob Toppin said to Coach John Calipari of Brooks, "Coach, just leave him in."
The lead grew to 24. The slim 6-foot-7 Brooks tied for his second-most rebounds this season, posting what was arguably his most efficient game of the season. Those 27 points came in 29 minutes. Afterward Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart gleefully described how Brooks had found his sweet spot – the mid-range jumper from 12-15 feet.
A Gatorade bath awaited Brooks in the locker room.
"It's the way we're built, the type of team, the type of guys we have," Brooks said. "You can't really lock in on one particular player. Tonight was my night. With TyTy coming back and Oscar being who he is, I'm always going to have opportunities. Those two, the gravity they have on the defense [is impactful]."
The 6-9 Tshiebwe now has averaged 12.7 points and 11.2 rebounds in four career games at Allen Fieldhouse. It's hard to remember he once went for 17 and 17 here with West Virginia. The expected battle with fellow national player of the year candidate Ochai Agbaji never developed. Agbaji was harassed into one of his worst games of the season (4-of-14 shooting, two rebounds).
Self was right about his Jayhawks getting outmuscled. Kansas basically stood there and took the thrashing in the public square of Allen. It was outrebounded 41-29. That does not bode well for March. The 51 points surrendered in the first half marked the second time Kansas had given up 50 first-half points in a week. (Also a week ago at Kansas State).
During the pregame hype video 120 decibels were topped. For those looking for comparisons, that equals the sound of standing next to a chain saw. Good comparison, actually. By halftime it was comparative crickets at Allen as the Wildcats, yes, sliced their way through the Jayhawks racing to a 20-point lead.
"The atmosphere is up there with the best of them," Brooks said. "We kind of negated that a little bit."
Ya think? Hastings had a parting shot as he left the suddenly-quiet basketball palace. His Wildcats had already landed enough body blows.
"A lot of Kansas fans were hostile toward me but I said the same thing," he said of his game-long celebration. "If you guys were up by 20 you would feel the exact same [way] toward me."