Coming off a pair of victories over LSU and Alabama, the Kentucky Wildcats (20-5, 10-2 Southeastern Conference) moved up two spots to No. 13 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 and one spot to No. 11 in the new USA Today Coaches’ Poll released Monday.
After losing three of four games, Kentucky head coach John Calipari installed a “reboot” to try to get his team back on track playing how it had earlier in the season. Just one day after the reboot was initiated, Kentucky topped LSU 92-85. For 32 minutes, the reboot was a rousing success, but over the final eight minutes the Wildcats reverted back to their recent play and let a once 25-point lead be cut to six with 14 seconds left in the game. Freshman forward Wenyen Gabriel scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Cats.
Kentucky went on the road Saturday and knocked off an Alabama team that was in fourth place in the SEC standings, 67-58. The Wildcats showed improved defense in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, holding the Crimson Tide to just 20 first-half points, marking the lowest point total by a UK opponent in any half this season. Like LSU, Alabama made a second-half push, cutting an 18-point UK lead down to six with 2:39 to play. Sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe stepped up under pressure and scored seven straight points for UK, and senior forward Derek Willis hit a big 3-pointer with 1:18 on the clock to give the Cats a nine-point win.
Malik Monk leads the SEC in scoring at 21.7 points per game, and is shooting an SEC-high 41.4 percent from 3-point range. De’Aaron Fox leads the SEC with 5.4 assists per game to go along with his 15.7 points and 4.2 rebounds. Briscoe is third on the team in scoring with 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Freshman Bam Adebayo mans the paint for UK with 12.9 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game.
Joining Kentucky in the top 25 from the SEC is No. 15/13 Florida (20-5, 10-2 SEC) and No. 21/19 South Carolina (20-5, 10-2 SEC).
The nation’s lone undefeated team, Gonzaga (26-0), remained No. 1 in both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Bulldogs received 60 of the 65 first-place votes in the AP poll and 29 of the 32 first-place votes in the coaches’ poll. Villanova earned the remaining first-place votes in each poll.
Gonzaga is followed by Villanova (24-2), Kansas (22-3), Baylor (22-3) and Arizona (23-3) in the AP poll. The top five of the coaches’ poll is: Gonzaga, Villanova, Kansas, Baylor and UCLA (23-3).
Kentucky will look to avenge its first conference loss of the season when it hosts Tennessee (14-11, 6-6 SEC) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Wildcats will then hit the road to take on Georgia (14-11, 5-7 SEC) on Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPN.
The complete AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches’ Poll are listed below.
AP Top 25
USA Today Coaches’ Poll
Cats show progress in road win at Alabama