Top-ranked Kentucky passes latest test, dispatches No. 6 Texas
Kentucky beat No. 6 Texas, 63-51, on Friday night at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., to move to 8-0 on the season. Willie Cauley-Stein paced the top-ranked Wildcats with 21 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and three blocks, while Dakari Johnson added 11 points and six rebounds. Though Kentucky’s lead grew to as many as 16 points in the second half, this game played out differently than the 32-point demolition of Kansas at the Champions Classic last month.
After that win over the Jayhawks, the Longhorns loomed as the next opponent that could potentially trip up the Wildcats. With a long and deep frontcourt that includes a top-10 recruit in Myles Turner, a rim protector in Cameron Ridley and a versatile stretch forward in Jonathan Holmes, Texas was viewed as one of the few teams able to present a serious challenge to Kentucky’s brigade of future lottery picks.
For one half, at least, the Longhorns held their own against the Wildcats in the frontcourt. Texas prevented easy looks around the basket and competed on the offensive and defensive glass. It also helped that Kentucky missed all five of its three-point attempts. That recipe allowed the Longhorns to play the Wildcats to a 26-26 tie.
After the break, Kentucky’s size and depth proved overwhelming for the Longhorns. The Wildcats opened the half with a 10-0 run that included this scintillating end-to-end sequence involving Tyler Ulis, Trey Lyles and Johnson.
That was one of a string of demoralizing dunks that seemed to hammer home the point that the Longhorns couldn’t keep up with the Wildcats.
As Texas’ momentum from the first half faded, Kentucky ramped up its intensity on defense as the Longhorns did not score until there was just over 14 minutes remaining in regulation, while also being incisive in attacking Texas on the other end of the floor.
A Cauley-Stein layup around the 11-minute mark gave Kentucky its biggest lead of the night (16), but Texas fought back to cut the deficit to five with under two minutes remaining. The Wildcats effectively sealed the game when Cauley-Stein threw down another jam at the 43-second mark, the final flourish of one of the more impressive individual performances so far this season.
Barnes on Cauley-Stein: “He affected the game every way you can affect it.” Like I said, Anthony Davis-like night.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_AJC) December 6, 2014
This loss doesn’t diminish Texas’ standing as the primary challenger to Kansas in the Big 12. In fact, the Longhorns look like the better team so far, especially considering the way each fared in a head-to-head bout with Kentucky.
Entering Friday, Texas had already recorded victories over possible NCAA Tournament teams Iowa, Cal and UConn. What’s more, the Longhorns were riding a four-game winning streak without starting point guard and leading scorer Isaiah Taylor, who is out indefinitely with a wrist fracture but could return around the start of Big 12 play.
The Longhorns face one more significant test, a Dec. 23 home meeting with potential Pac-12 contender Stanford, before they open their Big 12 slate after the new year.
Meanwhile, talk of Kentucky running the table will continue unabated. The Wildcats managed to subdue a team that, on the surface, appeared to have the physical wherewithal to pull off an upset. But in playing Kentucky close, the Longhorns provided another example that not all of the Wildcats’ wins this season will come as easy as the one against Kansas last month that sparked all the talk in the first place.
Still, the Wildcats are 8-0 and ranked No. 1 with impressive wins over two of the top teams in the Big 12 and Big East foe Providence, which entered Friday 41st in the KenPom efficiency rankings. Remaining tests before the start of conference play include home meetings with No. 12 North Carolina and UCLA as well as a road date with No. 5 Louisville.
(11) Kansas 71, Florida 65
The Jayhawks overcame an 18-point deficit to extend their winning streak to five games. Wayne Selden recorded a season-high 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and powered Kansas’ comeback. The sophomore guard scored six points in a two-minute span midway through the second half to cut the Gators' lead to three, then knocked down a jumper at the 5:44 mark to give Kansas a two-point lead.
The Gators squandered an excellent opportunity to score their first big victory of the season. After building a double-digit lead, Florida suffered a series of lapses and failed to either get enough stops or convert enough timely baskets to slow Kansas, which outscored the Gators by 21 points in the second half. Florida has now dropped four of its first seven games. Billy Donovan’s team lost three games all of last season.
Florida, picked to finish second in the SEC in a preseason poll, faces games against Wake Forest and Florida State before the start of conference play. The Jayhawks’ pre-league trials include games at Georgetown and against Utah.
Yale 45, Connecticut 44
The one and only field goal Jack Montague converted Friday night at Gampel Pavilion gave Yale a one-point edge in a stunning upset. With 1.7 seconds remaining in regulation, Montague, a junior guard, buried a three from the left corner to end a streak of 13 consecutive losses to the Huskies.
Center Amida Brimah led UConn with 14 points, and guard Sam Cassell Jr. provided 12 points off the bench. Ryan Boatright scored only six points in 35 minutes less than a week after spraining his ankle in a loss to Texas.
UConn, voted to win the American Athletic Conference the preseason, has now lost three straight games. The last two have come at home, with both the Longhorns and Yale hitting game-winning corner threes. The Huskies host Coppin State on Dec. 14 before taking on No. 4 Duke at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. on Dec. 18.
The "Silent Night" tradition at Taylor University
Taylor University students wearing costumes and pajamas pack the school’s home gym for the final game prior to the start of final exams in December. The students stay silent while anticipating the Trojans scoring their 10th point. When it happens, a raucous celebration breaks out. Here is video from this year's version:
A few students used the occasion to display a message being used in protests across the country.
Taylor, a member of the NAIA, is an evangelical Christian college located in Upland, Ind.