Top-ranked Kentucky remains undefeated with a 63-51 win over No. 6 Texas on Friday night at Rupp Arena in Lexington. It’s the second double-digit win over a top-10 team this season for the Wildcats.
After heading into the locker room tied 26-26, No. 1 Kentucky picked up the already stifling defense to spark an early second half run, quickly turning a tie game into a double-digit lead. Kentucky’s white platoon — Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein in for Marcus Lee – scored the first 10 points of the half, getting the ball inside Texas’ 2-3 zone, while also getting out in transition for easy buckets.
Kentucky’s lead ballooned to 44-28, thanks to an 18-2 run. To the Longhorns’ credit, they cut the lead to five, 56-51, with under two minutes to play, but Willie Cauley-Stein, who had his hands all over Friday night’s win, put the final stamp on the victory, completing an alley-oop pass from Andrew Harrison.
Cauley-Stein finished with a great stat line of 21 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and three blocks. Dakari Johnson had 11, followed by Karl-Anthony Towns with 10. Jonathan Holmes finished with a team-high 14 points for Texas.
For the second time in less than three weeks, Kentucky has taken down a team ranked in the top-6. On Nov. 18, in the Champions Classic, Kentucky dismantled then-No. 4 Kansas, 72-40. On Friday night, Texas looked to be in a good position early, dominating Kentucky on the boards, which ended in a 27-11 advantage through the first 20 minutes. But late in the first half a Flagrant 1 called on Holmes, sparked a 6-0 run, tying the game.
The offense for Kentucky continues to be a work in progress. Texas was without starting point guard Isaiah Taylor (wrist), but Kentucky — with its full arsenal of guards — saw its back court struggle from the field. The Harrison twins, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis shot 4-of-27 collectively, although Ulis and Andrew Harrison combined for eight assists and one turnover. Andrew also hit the lone 3-pointer for Kentucky.
The Wildcats shot under 10 percent from three, were outrebounded, juggled the platoons and held off a late charge from the Longhorns. And still won by a dozen.
But Kentucky’s defense held Texas to under 30 percent (no opponent has shot better than 40 percent through eight games) forced 22 turnovers and wore down a frontline as foul trouble mounted in a whistle-happy game.
Kentucky has a two-games — Eastern Kentucky and Columbia — before a three-game stretch against the likes of No. 12 North Carolina, UCLA and at No. 5 Louisville.