Arkansas bullies its way past UK

Published 11:21 am Wednesday, February 8, 2023

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Kentucky Today

When push came to shove, Kentucky couldn’t compete with Arkansas.

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The Wildcats had a a six-game Southeastern Conference winning streak snapped in an 88-73 loss to the surging Razorbacks Tuesday night in Rupp Arena.

The loss was second conference setback at home and third of the season for the Wildcats. Arkansas claimed its third straight win over Kentucky and defeated the Wildcats for just the fifth time in Lexington, with two of those coming under coach Eric Musselman. Arkansas has won five of its past six games.

“Give Arkansas credit,” Calipari said. “They were physical, they drove the ball, our rim protection was awful and we couldn’t get guys to body up and they did a great job of bodying us up.”

Kentucky (16-8, 7-4) failed to match the Razorbacks’ intensity, especially in the second half. Arkansas (17-7, 6-5) shot a blistering 72 percent — 18 for 25 — from the field in the final 20 minutes and used a 6-0 scoring blitz to open the second period to set the tone for the remainder of the game.

“You’re not going to win a game if they’re shooting 72 percent,” Calipari said. “We tried some zone, tried some different things, we switched, they got downhill and no one in (the post) wanted to body up, which is what they did to us. They were way better than us today. We’ve just got to figure it out,”

The Kentucky coach added his squad “did all the right things” on defense, but Arkansas couldn’t miss when it mattered the most.

“They made shots, now,” Calipari said. “They played well and we’re a pretty good defensive team. We weren’t tonight. We just weren’t.”

The guests continually beat the Wildcats off the dribble and finished with 46 points in the paint. Overall, the Razorbacks shot 63 percent from the field. As has been the case for most of the season, Kentucky struggled with the pick-and-roll defense.

“They kept getting downhill on us,” Wallace said. “Give them props, but we’ve got to do better with our pick-and-roll defense.”

Calipari’s squad committed 15 turnovers, with the Razorbacks scoring 23 points off those miscues.

Wallace, the SEC Freshman of the Week, led the Wildcats with 24 points, followed by Chris Livingtson with 13. Jacob Toppin and Antoinio Reeves chipped in with 11 points each.

Kentucky got a big lift in the first half from an unllikely source. Sophomore Daimion Collins, who had scored seven points in the previous two encounters, tallied seven in the first half against the Razorbacks.

Oscar Tshiebwe was limited to just seven points and seven rebounds.

“We were trying to get it in to him,” Calipari said. “I thought he worked at times and other times they were getting around the post and they just bodied him. I was doing some stuff to let him get some jump shots to get him going. He’s got to be better for us, and he will be.”

Calipari went with a seven-man rotation, while point guard Sahvir Wheeler didn’t play because of an ankle injury.

Kentucky is back in action at noon on Saturday at Georgia.