Lexington, Ky. — Second-ranked Kansas missed all of its 3-point attempts in the first half, and still the Jayhawks kept on shooting.
That confidence paid off in one of college basketball’s toughest, loudest environments.
Josh Jackson calmly made consecutive 3-pointers to jump-start the Jayhawks, Frank Mason III had 21 points and Kansas beat No. 4 Kentucky 79-73 on Saturday night in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
The Challenge’s marquee matchup between college basketball’s two winningest programs ended with the Jayhawks earning their second straight win over the Wildcats on Kentucky’s home floor.
Three-point shooting was critical for Kansas (19-2). It shook off an 0-for-8 first half to make 5 of 11 after halftime, starting with Jackson’s back-to-back makes, which provided the first of several leads in a back-and-forth half. Kansas led throughout the final seven minutes.
The Jayhawks shot 59 percent in the second half, and Jackson finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“I find making 3s gets kind of contagious,” the freshman said. “I think it kind of opened it up for us a little bit.”
Kansas got this big victory at the end of a tumultuous week for the program.
After the Jayhawks’ 85-69 loss Tuesday night at No. 18 West Virginia, campus police in Lawrence announced they were investigating an alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl at the team’s dormitory. Coach Bill Self said on Thursday that the investigation had become a “major distraction.” Self also suspended forward Carlton Bragg Jr. this week for a violation of team rules that he said wasn’t connected to the investigation.
Mason had 13 second-half points and Landen Lucas contributed 13 points — including a layup with 4:41 remaining to cap an 11-0 run for a 69-59 lead — and five rebounds before fouling out. Kentucky (17-4) got within 77-73 before Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk’s two free throws with 16 seconds left sealed the hard-fought win.
“Coach told us to focus on the things we can control and we did a pretty good job of that,” Mason said. “We just have to do that, not get distracted and focus on what we can control.”
Kansas used a variety of defenses, including a zone, to effectively slow Kentucky. Malik Monk and Derek Willis each had 18 points for the Wildcats (17-4), but Monk had just had six in the second half as the Wildcats dropped their second straight.
The Jayhawks forced 17 turnovers for 21 points and outscored Kentucky 44-34 in the paint. Devonte’ Graham had 12 points, and Mykhailiuk provided a big lift in place of Bragg with eight points.
“I thought this could get ugly really fast,” Self said. “The key part of the game for us was the last five minutes to get it to five (32-27) at halftime. … Then Josh’s two 3s to start the second half took the lid off and we were pretty good after that.”
The Wildcats’ ragged stretch just before halftime resulted in 10 turnovers, and their problems continued in the second half. They gave the Jayhawks all kinds of opportunities that not even 40-percent 3-point shooting could overcome. The Wildcats don’t lose often at Rupp Arena, but they now have two home defeats this season, both in marquee games against ranked teams — they lost to now-No. 8 UCLA in December.
“Kansas’ experience showed,” said Isaiah Briscoe, who had 12 points and eight rebounds. “They were down and kept fighting. I give them credit, but a lot of that is on us.”
Kansas’ gutsy win in a tough environment might be enough to convince some poll voters to put the Jayhawks on top. Kentucky figures to drop several spots with a home loss following an SEC defeat at mid-pack Tennessee.
More Top 25
No. 3 Gonzaga 96, (at) Pepperdine 49: Przemek Karnowski scored 16 points and Silas Melson had 15, helping Gonzaga easily roll past Pepperdine.
The Bulldogs are the last unbeaten team in the country and could lead the AP Top 25 for only the second time in their history after both No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Kansas lost this week.
Gonzaga (22-0, 10-0 West Coast Conference) has matched its longest ever winning streak at 22 games.
The Bulldogs shot 58.6 percent and held the Waves to 30.2 percent shooting. They took immediate command over outmanned Pepperdine (6-16, 2-8), using a superior height advantage to jump out to a 27-8 lead.
(At) Syracuse 82, No. 6 Florida State 72: Andrew White scored 24 points, John Gillon had 21 points and matched his career high with 11 assists, and Syracuse earned its first victory over a ranked team.
Tyler Lydon had 14 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high six blocks for the Orange (13-9, 5-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who led 44-26 at halftime. Tyler Roberson added 10 points and seven boards.
Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac each had 19 points for Florida State (18-4, 6-3), and Xavier Rathan-Mayes finished with 16. Isaac also grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked two shots.
No. 5 Baylor 78, (at) Mississippi 75: Manu Lecomte scored 17 points, leading Baylor to the win in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
Baylor (20-1) rallied from a 15-point deficit in the first half to win its fifth straight game. The Bears trailed 50-40 early in the second half, but pushed ahead to take their first lead at 56-54 with 10:25 left after Johnathan Motley made a pair of free throws.
It was a close game from that point forward. Lecomte hit a decisive 3-pointer with 23 seconds left that made it 78-72 and sent many of the Ole Miss fans to the exits.
Sebastian Saiz and freshman Breein Tyree scored 20 points apiece for Ole Miss (12-9).
(At) Miami 77, No. 9 North Carolina 62: Freshman Bruce Brown scored a career-high 30 points, and Miami snapped North Carolina’s seven-game win streak.
The Hurricanes (14-6, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) had success with a swarming zone defense. The Tar Heels’ point total was a season low and 27 below their average, and they shot only 35 percent.
Miami also had a 41-36 edge in rebounding against the Tar Heels (19-4, 7-2), who lead the nation in that category.
Ja’Quan Newton added 18 points and seven rebounds for the Hurricanes, whose biggest lead was 55-33.
Justin Jackson led North Carolina with 21 points. Joel Berry II went 0 for 8 and scored two points, 13 below his average.
(At) Colorado 74, No. 10 Oregon 65: Derrick White scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half, keying Colorado’s upset of Oregon that snapped the Ducks’ 17-game winning streak.
Xavier Johnson added 13 points as the Buffaloes (12-10, 2-7 Pac-12) kept the Ducks winless in seven trips all-time in Boulder.
Payton Pritchard’s 19 points led the Ducks (19-3, 8-1), who lost for the first time since Nov. 21 against Georgetown.
White had a pair of 3-pointers early in the second half that put the Buffaloes ahead 45-39 while Colorado’s stifling defense was keeping the Ducks out of rhythm at the other end of the court. And he had a 3-pointer, a three-point play and two free throws in an 11-1 run that gave Colorado a 64-52 lead.
Georgetown 85, (at) No. 11 Butler 81: L.J. Peak scored 22 points and Jessie Govan beat the shot clock with a key 3-pointer with 1:03 left, helping Georgetown to the win.
Govan and Rodney Pryor each finished with 20 points as the Hoyas (12-10, 3-6 Big East) stopped the Bulldogs’ 14-game home winning streak with their second straight victory against a ranked opponent. They were coming off a 71-51 win against No. 16 Creighton on Wednesday.
Kelan Martin scored 22 points for Butler (18-4, 7-3), which lost for the first time in five games. Andrew Chrabascz had 16 points.
(At) Georgia Tech 62, No. 14 Notre Dame 60: Josh Okogie made a fast-break layup as time expired, Tadric Jackson had a career-high 25 points and Georgia Tech earned another surprising victory over a ranked opponent.
The inexperienced Yellow Jackets (13-8, 5-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), in their first year under coach Josh Pastner, already had two wins over top-10 opponents before taking down the Fighting Irish (17-5, 6-3).
Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell went up for a short jumper but missed off the rim with 7 seconds remaining. Jackson grabbed the rebound, tossed the ball to a streaking Okogie, and McCamish Pavilion erupted in cheers.
Ben Lammers, the only player on either team to play the entire game, had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Georgia Tech.
V.J. Beachem scored 23 points for the Irish, and Bonzie Colson had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
(At) No. 16 Creighton 83, DePaul 66: Khyri Thomas scored 18 points and Marcus Foster had 15, leading Creighton to the win at home.
Justin Patton added 14 points as Creighton (19-3, 6-3 Big East) won for the first time in three games since star point guard Maurice Watson Jr. was shelved by a major knee injury.
Billy Garrett Jr. scored 18 points and Brandon Cyrus had 12 for the Blue Demons (8-13, 1-7).
Creighton has won 10 of its last 11 meetings with DePaul, including eight of nine since joining the Big East in 2013.
No. 17 Duke 85, (at) Wake Forest 83: Luke Kennard hit a 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left, helping Duke rally for the road win.
Kennard finished with 34 points — one shy of his career high — and Grayson Allen had 19 for the Blue Devils (16-5, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference). Kennard was 6 for 6 from 3-point range and Allen went 5 for 11 from beyond the arc.
Duke appeared to be headed for its fourth loss in five games before Kennard took over in the second half. He scored 12 of Duke’s final 15 points.
Bryant Crawford scored a career-high 26 points, John Collins added 20 and Keyshawn Woods finished with 15 for Wake Forest (12-9, 3-6).
(At) No. 18 West Virginia 81, Texas A&M 77: Jevon Carter had 19 points and nine rebounds, helping West Virginia hold on for the win.
West Virginia opened a 51-31 lead on Daxter Miles Jr.’s 3-pointer early in the second half. But the Mountaineers needed two free throws by Esa Ahmad with 4.4 seconds left to finish off the Aggies.
Ahmad went 6 for 12 at the line and finished with 14 points. Miles scored 10 points for West Virginia (17-4), which was coming off an 85-69 win against No. 2 Kansas on Tuesday.
Carter made four 3-pointers and also had two steals in 34 minutes.
Admon Gilder scored 24 points for the Aggies (11-9), and Tyler Davis had 19 points and 18 rebounds. JC Hampton went 5 for 6 from 3-point range and finished with 21 points.
No. 21 Saint Mary's 72, (at) Santa Clara 59: Jock Landale had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Saint Mary’s held off a late charge by Santa Clara.
The Gaels (19-2, 9-1 West Coast Conference) won their fourth straight game and beat Santa Clara for the 14th time in their past 16 meetings.
Emmett Naar added 15 points and nine assists for Saint Mary’s, which led 53-37 with 10 minutes left before the Broncos rallied within 55-50 with six minutes remaining. The Gaels made 11 of 12 free throws in the final five minutes to secure the victory.
Nate Kratch led Santa Clara (12-11, 6-4) with 19 points, including 14 in the first half.
No. 23 South Carolina 63, (at) Missouri 53: Sindarius Thornwell had 16 points and 11 rebounds and South Carolina beat Missouri.
Rakym Felder had 12 of his 13 points in the first half and was 3 of 4 from 3-point range for the Gamecocks (17-4, 7-1 Southeastern Conference).
Russell Woods had 18 points and eight rebounds and K.J. Walton added 12 points for Missouri (5-15, 0-8).
The Gamecocks’ defense set the tone, holding the Tigers to 35.7 percent from the field, including 1 of 17 from 3-point range. South Carolina entered ranked first nationally in 3-point defense, holding opponents to 26.4 percent, and had four blocks, six steals and 16 points off 15 Missouri turnovers.
No. 25 Florida 84, (at) Oklahoma 52: Kevarrius Hayes scored a career-high 20 points to help Florida roll to the road win in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
Canyon Barry scored 15 points and Devin Robinson had 13 for the Gators (16-5), who have won two in a row since dropping consecutive games to South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Florida scored a season-high 106 points against LSU on Wednesday, and then held Oklahoma to 27.7-percent shooting.
Rashard Odomes scored 13 points for the Sooners (8-12), and Kameron McGusty had 10.