by Michael Willis – The last time Kentucky lost a SEC game in Rupp Arena was almost two years ago, to the University of Arkansas, but tonight the Cats won 97-71 in a physical contest against the Razorbacks. Kentucky led at halftime 41 to 38, after a sloppy first half plagued with turnovers and fouls.
UK had 7 turnovers at half compared to 4 by Arkansas. With 24 total fouls called in the first half (12 by each) the Cats could not find their rhythm and were down 23-20 with 8:28 left to finish the half. This forced John Calipari to call a timeout, during which the Wildcats calmed down and were able to retake the lead.
The Razorbacks didn’t perform much better, with their leading scorer Dusty Hannahs 0/4 in the first half and his only points coming from two free-throws. Kentucky’s Derek Willis came off the bench shooting a perfect 3 out of 3 field goals, contributing 8 points in the first half to help his team achieve a halftime lead. Willis would finish with 15 points/ 5 rebounds making this game one of his best efforts of the year.
In the second half, the Wildcats came out looking to score. De’Aaron Fox, who would be the game’s leading scorer with 27 points (career high), drove the lane three consecutive times as the Cats started to pull away. The game started to get rough; players were separated multiple times and with 14:39 left in the game, the Razorbacks’ Jaylen Barford stepped on Wildcat Isaiah Briscoe who was lying on the floor. This caused a scuffle and a double technical was issued to Fox and Barford. Kentucky’s aggressive defense caused Arkansas to go more than five minutes without scoring a field goal, as the Cats pulled away for the victory.
Next, Kentucky will be traveling to play the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville. The game will be at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Tidbits from the game:
- This was the first game that Malik Monk failed to hit a 3 pointer.
- UK made 28-of-40 free throws, season high in both categories.
- UK lead in fast break points 24-4.
- UK leads the series with Arkansas 29-11, winning the last 4.