CHICAGO (TNS) — Kansas’ third straight victory over fellow basketball blueblood Kentucky has vaulted Bill Self into a tie with Roy Williams as the second-winningest KU coach of all-time.
Svi Mykhailiuk scored 17 points, Udoka Azubuike had 13 points with 8 rebounds, Malik Newman added 12 points with 9 boards and Devonté Graham had 11 points (including two big free throws late) as the No. 4-ranked Jayhawks claimed a thrilling 65-61 decision over the No. 7 Wildcats on Tuesday in a Champions Classic contest at the United Center.
It followed a pair of KU victories over John Calipari’s Wildcats in successive seasons in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, improving KU to 9-22 all-time against Kentucky.
Tuesday’s win was Self’s 418th all-time (against 88 losses) in 15 seasons at Kansas. Roy Williams also won 418 games (against 101 setbacks) in 15 seasons (1989-2003). Phog Allen is No. 1 all-time at KU with 590 wins.
KU won this one down the stretch. Graham hit one of two free throws to bust a 57-57 tie, then Newman hit a three at 2:06 to give KU a 61-57 lead. Kentucky cut it to 61-59, but Newman cashed a pair of free throws following a rebound and sprint down the court with 17 seconds left to give KU a four-point lead at 63-59.
Kentucky cut it to two at 63-61 with 8 seconds left but Graham made two free throws to give KU a 65-61 advantage at 7.1, sealing the victory.
KU overcame a Kentucky team that blocked 10 shots. Kevin Knox led the Wildcats with 20 points. KU hit 35.3 percent of its shots, and 8 of 28 three-pointers; Kentucky hit 41.8 percent and was 3 of 13 from three.
Kansas had just seven scholarship players available for the second consecutive game. The Jayhawks went against a Kentucky team that has a top nine that consists of six freshmen and three sophomores. Freshman Billy Preston, who was suspended from the opener against Tennessee State for missing class and curfew, was held out again by Self. Self said Preston was involved in a single-vehicle incident on campus that damaged his car but had no injuries.
“The administration determined that we needed a clearer financial picture specific to the vehicle,” Self said. “We decided to hold him out of tonight’s game and will continue to do that until the review is complete.”
The Jayhawks led by 11 points at 18-7 and 20-9, however, maintained just a one-point advantage at 34-33 at halftime. Kentucky’s length caused the Jayhawks all sorts of problems. The Wildcats blocked six shots in the first half in holding KU to 13 of 38 shooting for 34.2 percent.
KU used some dazzle to open up a six-point lead with 9:11 left in the contest. Leading 47-45 at 10:47, Mykhailiuk dunked off a long, deep bullet pass from Lagerald Vick, who had 9 points, and Azubuike dunked off a lob from Graham. However, Kentucky tied it at 51 with 6:45 left. It was tied at 55-55 with 4:32 to play and 57-57 at 2:53.
The Jayhawks had no double-digit scorers in the first half. Graham and Newman each missed 7 of 10 shots, Graham scoring eight points and Newman seven. Graham and Newman were 1 of 4 from three in the half, as was Mykhailiuk, who had seven points. KU hit 4 of 15 first-half threes.
Sacha Killeya-Jones had three blocks for Kentucky in the first half. Knox led the freshmen-laden Wildcats with 12 first-half points. The Wildcats hit 44 percent in the half and were 3 of 7 from three.
Kansas grabbed an early 11-point lead (18-7) thanks to an 11-0 run that busted a 7-7 tie. Vick opened the run with a three, followed by one free throw from Azubuike, a drive to the goal by Newman, a drive by Graham and a three by Newman.
KU led 20-9 at 13:37, however Kentucky didn’t quit, using a 19-8 run to tie the score at 28 with 6:12 left. Kentucky led 33-32 at 2:14, with KU ultimately regaining the lead at the break on a driving layup by Newman.
The Jayhawks jumped to an early lead of six points (13-7) at the first TV timeout with 13:54 left in the first half. KU stretched the lead to 11 — 18-7 — at 14:08 and 20-9 at 13:37.