INDIANAPOLIS — Jalen Wilson scored 21 of his career-high 23 points in the second half and posted his first double-double to help No. 7 Kansas get past No. 20 Kentucky 65-62 on Tuesday night in the Champions Classic.
Wilson grabbed 10 rebounds as the Jayhawks (2-1) won their second straight since losing their opener to top-ranked Gonzaga. Ochai Agbaji had 17 points.
Kentucky (1-2) was led by Brandon Boston Jr. and Davion Mintz, who each scored 12. Mintz had a chance to tie it with five seconds to go but his 3-pointer was off the mark and Kansas grabbed the rebound.
This matchup between college basketball’s two winningest programs was no classic.
It was sloppy, ugly and disjointed in an empty Bankers Life Fieldhouse that had no fans, no cardboard cutouts and no piped-in noise except during timeouts. And the lack of intensity was palpable throughout the game.
Kansas shot 30% from the field, missing three of four free throws during one stretch in the final minute when it could have sealed the win. Kentucky shot 36% but couldn’t even grab the rebound after Agbaji missed his second free throw during the stretch.
The Wildcats took an early double-digit lead but after closing to 35-29 at halftime, Kansas opened the second period on a 10-3 run to take the lead.
But the offensive woes prevented either team from taking control until Agbaji broke a 55-all tie with a rare 3-pointer at the 2:43 mark. His dunk on the next possession finally gave Kansas some breathing room.
Kentucky: After last weekend’s surprising loss to Richmond at home, the Wildcats needed to get back on track. It looked as though they might for one half. But now even a win Sunday against Georgia Tech in Atlanta might not be enough to keep them in the Top 25.
Kansas: The Jayhawks scored 184 points in their first two games — but you wouldn’t have known it by the way they played Tuesday. Kansas missed 13 of its first 15 shots. Yet the Jayhawks have won two straight and should win their next two games before another high-profile matchup with No. 9 Creighton.
Kansas guard Marcus Garrett suited up despite feeling ill the past couple of days. He reportedly tested negative for COVID-19. Garrett could be seen on the bench trying to catch his breath.
Kentucky heads to a familiar locale, Atlanta, to face Georgia Tech on Sunday.
Kansas plays the first of five straight home games Thursday against Washburn.