Kentucky vs. Texas final score: 3 things we learned in the Wildcats’ home victory
The Wildcats moved to 8-0 with a tight victory over Texas.
Kentucky started the second half with a big run to blow open a close game against Texas on Friday night, and sealed the victory with the type of ferocious defense the Wildcats have been known for early in this season. Kentucky stayed undefeated with a 63-51 win over the Longhorns at Rupp Arena as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Kentucky came out of halftime on a 16-2 run to work the home crowd into a frenzy. Texas would eventually answer with an 11-2 run of its own to cut the deficit to five with just over four minutes to play, but the Longhorns couldn’t score enough at the end to pull the upset.
The first half wasn’t pretty, even as the score was tied at 26. The teams combined for 25 fouls and each squad struggled to shoot from the field. Kentucky’s pressure defense didn’t take long to find its footing, forcing 13 Texas turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
For the game, Texas shot only 29.8 percent against the Wildcats defense. Willie Cauley-Stein led the Wildcats with 21 points while Dakari Johnson added 11 points and six rebounds off the bench. Texas was led by 14 points from senior Jonathan Holmes.
Here’s three things we learned from Kentucky’s win.
1. Kentucky’s defense is ridiculous
Even when Texas had a clean look at the rim, the Longhorns seemed like a wide receiver going over the middle against a ferocious defense. Texas players were hearing footsteps.
The Longhorns missed 16 of their 20 three-pointers and struggled the entire night to make shots from any spot on the floor. It’s going to be impossible for any team to beat Kentucky when it misses 10 free throws like Texas did.
This is more about Kentucky than Texas, though. The Wildcats’ pressure defense has been incredible all season, and it got the job done again on Friday night. Kentucky forced Texas into 22 turnovers and contested every attempt with its unmatched length.
2. Don’t overlook Willie Cauley-Stein
It’s so easy to focus on Kentucky’s new talent when they have freshmen as dynamic as Karl Towns and Tyler Ulis, but it was one of the Wildcats’ two juniors who made the biggest difference on Friday. Cauley-Stein could have been a lottery pick in the NBA draft a year ago, but chose to return to Lexington. John Calipari must be happy he did.
Cauley-Stein was everywhere on both ends of the floor. He finished with 12 rebounds, five steals and three blocks to go with his 21 points. He was doing stuff like this:
That’s a 7’1, 240-pound center helping to force a miss at one end and then pushing the ball at the other. Cauley-Stein isn’t known for his skill, but his combination of size and athleticism is a good microcosm of what makes this Kentucky team so scary.
3. Texas misses Isaiah Taylor
Kentucky’s pressure defense makes quality guard play even more valuable. Taylor, who is recovering from a broken wrist, would have been a big boost. The sophomore is one of the best in the country at breaking down a defense, and his quickness could have given the Wildcats trouble.
Of course, the other half to that equation is making shots from the outside after penetration, and Texas didn’t do that on Wednesday. With guard Javan Felix and Kendal Yancy combining to go 3-for-14, the Longhorns really never stood a chance.