‘Empowered’ Kentucky Is No. 5 In Nation After Pummeling Kansas

Kentucky played its best game of the season when it took over Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday and dominated the No. 5 Jayhawks for an 80-62 victory in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

The Wildcats (17-4, 6-2 SEC) jumped from No. 12 to No. 5 in the latest Associated Press poll on Monday, but Kentucky coach John Calipari noticed something he feels is more significant.

While the Wildcats were in control of Kansas, Calipari got up to substitute junior forward Jacob Toppin for junior forward Keion Brooks Jr., but Toppin said, “Coach, just leave him in.'”

Brooks went on to finish with 27 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes, while Toppin scored 11 with three rebounds in 11 minutes.

“That’s when I know they’re becoming empowered,” Calipari said. “This is when you know we’re becoming a good team.”

Kansas (17-3) dropped to No. 10.

The Wildcats won their sixth of seven games with the only loss at then-No. 4 Auburn on Jan. 22 when they lost point guard TyTy Washington to an ankle injury. Washington returned to action at Kansas. Kentucky next plays Wednesday (7 p.m., SEC Network) at home against Vanderbilt (11-9, 3-5).

Auburn (20-1, 8-0 SEC) remained No. 1 for the second straight week after its 17 straight win and will host an improving Alabama team (14-7, 4-4 SEC) on Tuesday (9 p.m. eastern, ESPN).

The Crimson Tide upset No. 4 Baylor Saturday in Tuscaloosa and led the way in votes for the A.P. poll with 97. Baylor (18-3) fell to No. 8.

Tennessee (14-6, 5-3) dropped from No. 18 to No. 22 in the poll after a close loss at Texas to close the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Volunteers host Texas A&M (15-6, 4-4) Tuesday (7 p.m., SEC Network).

LSU (16-5, 4-4) also fell in the poll from No. 19 to No. 25 after losing at TCU on Saturday. The Tigers, who were No. 13 two weeks ago but have lost four of five, host Ole Miss (11-10, 2-6) on Tuesday (9 p.m., SEC Network).

South Carolina (13-7, 4-4) plays at Mississippi State (13-7, 4-3) in the other Tuesday game (7 p.m., ESPNU).

The rest of the A.P. top 10 had Gonzaga (17-2) at No. 2, followed by UCLA (16-2) at No. 3, Purdue (18-3) at No. 4, Houston (18-2) at No. 6, Arizona (17-2) at No. 7 and Duke (17-3) at No. 9.

Wisconsin, Villanova, Michigan State, Texas Tech, Providence, Ohio State, Illinois, USC and Iowa State were ranked from No. 11-20. Xavier was No. 21, followed by No. 23 Texas and No. 24 Marquette.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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