For the fourth time this season, Kansas came up empty in a true road game. That now gives them a 1-4 record on the road, with the only win coming against Baylor in Waco. Three of the four losses include a late blown lead in Tempe against a then 18th ranked Arizona State team (Kansas was ranked 1), a blow out in Ames against what could be a dangerous Iowa State team (Kansas was ranked 5), and another blown lead in Morgantown against a West Virginia team that seems to have nothing going right, and their only Big 12 victory is the win against Kansas (Kansas was ranked 7).
Kansas was hoping to turn things around on the road, this time in Rupp Arena against the 8th ranked Kentucky Wildcats. However, the 9th ranked Jayhawks could not get it done once again. While it is never a good or acceptable feeling to lose, this loss is the easiest to forgive. Kansas probably should have won each of their other road losses, but the Kentucky game is much more of a toss-up. The closing line had Kentucky favored by 5.5 points, and many experts had chosen UK to win this game. KU looked good in the first half, taken a three-point lead into the locker room. This lead turned out to be short-lived, as once the second half got underway, Kentucky came out rolling, and Kansas struggled the rest of the way.
Even though Kansas never seemed to get it rolling in the second half, it never felt like they were out of it. They were able to keep it close throughout, and Wildcat fans were never able to really exhale until the dying seconds of the game. While this loss does hurt now, it won’t have too many implications. It was a non-conference loss, so it has no impact on Kansas’ Big 12 ranking. It will, however, probably cause Kansas to drop out of the top 10 and may affect their seeding when the time comes in March.
The Jayhawks can’t dwell on this road loss at all though, as they have another Big 12 road test when they travel to Austin to take on the Longhorns. When Kansas took on Texas in Lawrence, KU won a nail biter 80-78. Given the way KU has played on the road this year, expect another game that goes down to the wire. In the Jayhawks’ lone road win, Kansas held Baylor to under 30% from beyond the 3-point line. Kansas has had its share of trouble this season defending against the three, and they will need to limit Texas in how many points they get from deep. In their last meeting, the Longhorns shot 34 threes. KU was lucky they were only able to convert on 13 of them, or the result of that game could have been very different.
Kansas also needs to do a better job at rebounding and taking care of the basketball. Too many times have we seen a shot by the opposition not go in, just for them to collect the offensive rebound and get points out of the possession. When on offense, Kansas needs to not be careless with the basketball. Kansas had 8 turnovers in the Kentucky game, and many could have been avoided in the players were focused on what was happening on the court and been aware of their surroundings.
All of that being said, however, Kansas should be able to put their road demons to rest, at least for one game. Kansas knows that all games in Big 12 play are important, especially considering how close the Big 12 standings are so far. This Texas game is also important because four days following, Kansas will play host to Texas Tech in a game that could decide the Big 12, and KU does not want to be losers of two straight, including a Big 12 game. From here on out, every game for Kansas is important if they want a two or three seed in March as well as continuing their streak of winning the Big 12. First, however, Kansas must show they are able to win games they need to on the road if they have any hope of meeting expectations set for them at the start of the year.
Kansas Jayhawks 76
Texas Longhorns 71
Tip-off is at 6 p.m. from Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin, Texas