Kentucky took care of business on Tuesday with a dominant 21 point win at home over No. 22 Mississippi State. Now, the No. 9 Wildcats get to step away from SEC play for a game as they take on No. 9 Kansas in a mouthwatering battle of college basketball blue bloods.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Exploit Kansas inside
This is a weird Jayhawks team for a couple of reasons. That is why they have been struggling as of late and how they managed to lose in Morgantown to a not so good West Virginia squad earlier this month. Bill Self has had teams in Lawrence that were pretty complete, but this is not one of them.
The biggest issue that Kansas faces is a lack of frontcourt firepower. Losing center Udoka Azubuike in early January has deprived the Jayhawks of a player averaging 13 points per game and their major rim protector. That they still haven’t been able to force through the paperwork to get Silvio De Sousa eligible either just compounds those problems.
Dedric Lawson is a beast, but the Jayhawks rank 311th in the country in allowing opponents 10.1 offensive rebounds per game. If the Wildcats, led by PJ Washington and Reid Travis, hit the boards hard, then there will be plenty of second shot opportunities.
Contain Dedric Lawson
Stopping Lawson entirely is a foolish notion, but the Wildcats should have the bodies and the talent to throw at the Jayhawks star player to slow down his production.
Lawson averaged 19.5 points and 10.9 rebounds per game and he is a likely All-American as one of the very best players of the game. With the aforementioned issues in the frontcourt, the Jayhawks will be looking to Lawson to put up 25+ points if they want to have a legitimate chance of beating Kentucky at Rupp.
Defense on Lawson begins with denying entry passes to allow him easy baskets and continues with taking chances and doubling him in the paint. Watch to see what other techniques Calipari uses to slow the Jayhawks biggest threat.
Deny easy baskets
The Wildcats should be aware that the Jayhawks only shoot 67.3-percent from the foul line. This is much worse than Kentucky’s 75.1-percent conversion rate from the foul line.
This means that Kentucky shouldn’t be afraid to be physical with the Kansas shooters and that they specifically shouldn’t give a single easy basket to a Kansas player at the rim. Hacking too much can obviously result in foul trouble for a specific player, but if this game comes down to the ability to make foul shots at key times then the advantage swings to Kentucky.
The other easy basket type that must be denied is when Lagerald Vick spots up from three-point range. Vick is the Jayhawks only consistent shooter, leading the Big 12 in three-point field goal percentage at 45.7-percent. His shooting could keep KU in the game.