3-Point Shot: UK-Kansas preview

Kentucky head coach John Calipari during the second half of the NCAA basketball game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Auburn Tigers at the Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala., on Friday, Jan. 15. (Dakota Sumpter | The Auburn Plainsman)

Josh Ellis

No. 20 UK (16-4, 6-2) v. No. 4 Kansas (16-4, 5-3) 

Tipoff: Saturday, 7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas TV: ESPN Radio: UK Radio Network, Sirius Channel 84, XM Channel 84

Three points of emphasis as two college basketball blue-bloods collide on Saturday:

Winning in Allen Fieldhouse comes at a premium

Only three teams have had success with the arduous task of beating Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse in the last nine seasons. On Saturday, if UK can stay even with the Jayhawks throughout the game, it has a chance to become the fourth.

“To win (these) kinds of games as an opponent you’ve got to be careful of runs and 3s,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “A team like that can score a bunch in 12, 15 seconds, and that’s what you’ve got to guard against. Really, in a game like this, you’re just trying to give yourself a chance to win the game.”

Kansas is 13th in the nation in scoring (83.7 ppg) and 5th in the nation in three-point percentage (43.0). The Cats’ defense – which has allowed its past three opponents to average less than 60 ppg and shoot 26 percent from three – will need to continue its late dominance on the defensive end if they want to leave Kansas with a W.

The first 10 minutes

A common trend among the four UK losses this season has been slow starts. UK comes out with no energy or attitude, and finds itself immediately trailing by double-digits on the road. The first 10 minutes could be the deciding factor if the Cats dig themselves into another hole.

Senior forward Alex Poythress, who has battled consistency for much of the year, knows he and his teammates need to be aggressive early. Luckily for UK, the team has had hot starts to its last three victories – all of which were won by 14 or more points. 

“Just (be) aggressive from the start, from the jump and just keeping it that way, maintaining that aggression level,” Poythress said. “You gotta be more focused and just come into the game and be prepared. You gotta play 40 minutes and just be aggressive the whole entire time.”

Resume builder

Other than Kansas’ win over No. 1 Oklahoma and UK’s win over No. 16 Louisville, neither team has another win that stands out in their resumes. Saturday gives both the Jayhawks and the Cats an opportunity to change that.

UK’s Tyler Ulis, who was apart of the 32-point beat down of last year’s UK-Kansas matchup, knows that last season’s outcome may still be brewing in the heads of the Jayhawks. And there would be arguably no sweeter revenge than for those Kansas players to swipe away UK’s last chance to earn a signature win before the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s another game, but obviously it’s a big game because you have two big-time programs coming against each other,” Ulis said. “With the way we played against them last year, they’re going to be coming at us. So they’re going to want some get-back and we have to be prepared.”

Want to know more about Saturday’s UK-Kansas matchup? 

Here’s a LINK: Position-by-Position breakdown of UK-Kansas