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

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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

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at www.acadianhouse.com, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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