Mission accomplished? The UK sought to make a statement in Kansas

Kentucky players suggested Saturday night’s 80-62 win over Kansas sent a message to the college basketball community.

When asked if the game could reasonably lead to speculation of a national championship, Oscar Tshiebwe replied: “Yes. I think tonight we were really good.

The game was a way to “show what we can do in future games”, he said. “I think we are going to go far.

Keion Brooks, who scored a career-high 27 points, saw Kentucky’s goal as more than just winning the game. The team also wanted to make a statement.

“It was one of our main goals as a team,” he said. “We knew we had the opportunity tonight to get everyone back to good health. … We wanted to see how good we were, and we came in and made a statement.

sharp point of view

Asked about the star turn displayed by Brooks, British coach John Caliapri warned against judging a player’s performance solely by the number of points he has scored.

Brooks seemed to agree.

When asked how proud he or any player was to score, Brooks said, “Scoring is fun and all. But that’s selfish if all you care about is scoring.

Defending, rebounding, diving for loose balls matter too, he said.

One for all

With Brooks on his way to career night, Jacob Toppin volunteered to play fewer minutes, Calipari said. The British coach took this as a sign of a team taking a one-for-all approach.

Toppin posted numbers in 11 minutes of action. His 11 points marked his third double-digit total this season. He also had a three-point shot for a second straight game. Those are his only two threes of the season.

Training tips

Calipari noted that Dontaie Allen as well as freshmen Daimion Collins and Bryce Hopkins did not enter the match.

This led the British coach to make two suggestions: this trio should be happy for the team after such a victory, and their teammates should try to cheer up the three players.

TyTy returns

Kentucky’s performance eclipsed freshman TyTy Washington who returned to action after missing the final game with a sprained ankle.

Ahead of the game, ESPN analyst LaPhonso Ellis said he was confident Washington could handle the charged atmosphere expected at Allen Fieldhouse.

“He has a maturity and poise that goes beyond his age,” Ellis said on Friday. “It will be interesting to see how he reacts.”

Washington ended up making just one of nine shots and scoring two points.

Same but different

Sahvir Wheeler and Remy Martin are both undersized guards who can overly impact a game.

ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg called them “two of the most explosive little guards in college basketball.”

Both also transferred to their new teams this season from the Power Five conferences. Still, Wheeler did not see Martin as his doppelganger.

“No, he doesn’t remind me of me…” the British guard said on Friday. “Maybe the only two things we have in common is our hair and we can run fast. I think we are two completely different players.

Wheeler suggested he was better at involving his teammates than Martin. But he noted Martin’s speed and ability. “He’s in Kansas for a reason,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler also recalled playing against Martin in the 2019-20 season. Martin, in his third college season, scored 23 points and had a six-rotation assist ratio as Arizona State beat Georgia 79-59. Wheeler, a freshman playing his ninth varsity game, had eight points and a four-to-five ratio.

Saturday night, Wheeler had a lot better. He played 34 minutes, scored seven points, and had eight assists and three turnovers.

Martin played 14 minutes, scored five points and had one assist.

Story

Kentucky’s last win over an Associated Press top-five opponent in a real road game was on Dec. 27, 2014, when the Wildcats won 58-50 at No. 4 Louisville.

It was Kentucky’s largest margin of victory (18 points) in school history against a top-five team in a real road game.

Kentucky improved its all-time win total to 2,344. Kansas’ total remained at 2,340.

Kansas lost for the first time in 11 home games. Self’s record in home games in 19 seasons slipped to 285-16.

800 times two

Five days after Calipari won his 800th victory as a university coach, former British coach Rick Pitino will be aiming for his 800th. It could happen on Sunday afternoon when Iona plays at Saint Peter’s.

“It’s a good thing,” Calipari said on Friday. “I wish him good luck.”