No. 12 Kentucky Upsets No. 5 Kansas in 80-62 Rout Behind Keion Brooks Jr.'s 27 Points

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 30, 2022

Kentucky forward Keion Brooks Jr., left, and guard Kellan Grady, right, share a hug after an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)
AP Photo/Michael Clubb

Kentucky earned its biggest win of the season, upsetting Kansas 80-62 at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday in Lawrence, Kansas.

This is the 12th-ranked Wildcats' second victory over a Top 25 opponent as they improve to 17-4. The No. 5 Jayhawks are losers for only the third time as they slip to 17-3 amid their toughest stretch of the year.

The rout was on by halftime. Kentucky was up 20 points, 51-31, at the end of the first half. Kansas hadn't allowed 50-plus first-half points in a home game since 2007.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

This is the largest home halftime deficit for Kansas over the last 25 seasons.<br><br>The Jayhawks last trailed by such a margin to Florida in 2014 (15 points). Kansas came back to win that one, but it has never overcome a 20-point deficit at home to win. <a href="https://t.co/7mPie4IHhD">pic.twitter.com/7mPie4IHhD</a>

The Wildcats didn't take their foot off the gas much in the second half. They shot 50.8 percent as a team.

Notable Performers

Oscar Tshiebwe, F, Kentucky: 17 points, 14 rebounds, one assist, four steals

Keion Brooks Jr., F, Kentucky: 27 points, eight rebounds, one steal

Christian Braun, G, Kansas: 13 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal 

Ochai Agbaji, G, Kansas: 13 points, two rebounds, three assists, one steal

Brooks, Tshiebwe Too Much for Jayhawks

Keion Brooks Jr. and Oscar Tshiebwe were the engines for Kentucky's offensive explosion.

Tshiebwe didn't fill up the points column, but his work on the glass was instrumental in denying Kansas second-chance opportunities and getting the transition started. The junior forward now has 15 double-doubles in Kentucky's 21 games.

Rob Dauster @RobDauster

I also don't think that enough is made of the fact that Oscar Tshiebwe does the job of two people on the glass. That's a big part of why Kentucky is so lethal in transition, and why it's so hard to run on them.<br><br>This is a fun, fun team, and I did not see this coming.

Kentucky Men’s Basketball @KentuckyMBB

Hardest worker we know …<a href="https://twitter.com/Oscartshiebwe34?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Oscartshiebwe34</a> 💪 <a href="https://t.co/UHPtfkjQiZ">pic.twitter.com/UHPtfkjQiZ</a>

Brooks' impact, meanwhile, is evident in his stat line. At one point in the second half, he scored 15 straight points for Kentucky.

His willingness to put the Wildcats offense on his back was helpful when Kansas began building a head of steam to start the second half. He was content to take what the Jayhawks were giving him inside the arc.

Terrence Oglesby @CoachTO22

Keion Brooks is loving this triangle and 2 defense.

Kyle Tucker @KyleTucker_ATH

Did not expect Keion Brooks to turn into Dirk Nowitzki at Kansas and hit all of the midrange jumpers. But here we are.

Kentucky is one week removed from losing to Auburn, so this win should be kept in perspective. But this outing was another reminder—something that was evident with the blowouts of North Carolina and Tennessee—of how dynamic the Wildcats can be.

They arguably have as good a shot at making a Final Four run as anybody else in the country.

Kansas Undone by Slow Start

A high-octane offense has been Kansas' calling card this season. The Jayhawks entered Sunday averaging the 12th-most points (81.5) and ranking 10th in field-goal percentage (49.3).

Bill Self's squad didn't have a terrible opening half on offense, shooting 13-of-33 overall and 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. 

But Kansas was getting bullied inside. Kentucky had a 28-18 edge in points in the paint and a 23-12 rebounding advantage.

Ari Temkin @arisports

Kansas Jayhawks getting exposed for their 51st ranked Ken Pom d and Oscar is also dominating for UK.

Harold R. Kuntz @HaroldRKuntz3

Last 3 games vs. Kansas<br><br>Kentucky, 51 point 1st Half<br>Texas Tech, 45 point 2nd Half<br>K-State, 50 point 1st Half <a href="https://t.co/sqsug70Pqh">https://t.co/sqsug70Pqh</a>

The Jayhawks' switch to a 2-3 defensive zone led to some brief success and it looked like the home team might be able to chip away at the deficit. Kentucky—Brooks to be more specific—quickly found a formula to work around the zone, nullifying the gains Kansas had made.

The Jayhawks' last three games were decided by nine combined points and they needed double overtime to put away Texas Tech. Perhaps a result was on the cards sooner or later, and it's better for Self to see now what he needs to work on.

What's Next?

Kansas moves on to another ranked opponent as it faces off with No. 23 Iowa State on the road Tuesday. Kentucky returns to Lexington on Wednesday for an SEC clash with Vanderbilt.