Men's Basketball

No. 6. Kentucky Visits No. 18 Arkansas on Saturday

by Tim Letcher

Gather around, youngsters, and let’s talk about a time when Kentucky and Arkansas was the premier college basketball rivalry in the Southeastern Conference, and one of the best in the country. For those under the age of 35, it’s probably not something they remember, but it’s true.

The Razorbacks came into the SEC in 1992 and wasted no time in challenging Kentucky for league supremacy. In fact, Arkansas won the SEC regular season title in its first year in the league, 1992, then again in 1994. That season, coach Nolan Richardson led his Razorbacks to the NCAA Tournament title as well, behind Scotty Thurman and Corliss Williamson.

Arkansas beat Kentucky in three out of the first four meetings beginning in 1992. There was also the oddity that, in 1993, 1994 and 1995, Arkansas beat Kentucky in the regular season but the Cats topped the Razorbacks in the SEC Tournament in each of those seasons.

After some lean years over the last decade, coach Eric Musselman has built the Arkansas program back to where they are once again in the Top 25. The Razorbacks are currently ranked 18th in the country as No. 6 Kentucky makes the trek to Fayetteville on Saturday. This feels like one of those early 1990’s kind of games.
 

Kentucky
Kentucky at Arkansas

Sat., Feb. 26 – 2:00 p.m. ET
Bud Walton Arena
Fayetteville, Ark.
Game Notes: UK | UA
UK Athletics App

Coverage

TV: CBS
Radio: UK Sports Network
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Live Stats

UK Stats UA
23-5 Record 22-6
12-3 Conference Record 11-4
80.6 PPG 77.5
65.3 Opp PPG 67.4
.486 FG% .441
.405 Opp FG% .408
41.0 RPG 38.4
.358 3PT FG% .313
.301 Opp 3PT FG% .323
16.2 APG 14.4
7.0 SPG 8.0
4.2 BPG 4.2


The Cats have already faced some tough road environments this season, playing at Auburn, at Kansas and at Tennessee, among others. UK guard Kellan Grady hopes that those experiences will have the Cats ready for a loud crowd on Saturday.

“I’d say we’re pretty accustomed to it at this point, on the road,” Grady said. “That’s been the story of Kentucky basketball, travelling in the SEC for years now. We’ve seen some tape on them. We expect it to be an electric environment, a sold out crowd with a ton of students and a lot of enthusiasm. The good news is, we’ve faced that, we’ve got some good experience with that. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been impressed with what he has seen from Arkansas on tape.

“What I’ve seen, they will scramble up the game but they never really seem to be out of control,” Calipari said. “So, they’re disciplined in what they’re doing. Yet, whether it’s offense or defense, they’ll scramble up the game a little bit. They don’t let go of the rope in any game I’ve watched.”

The bottom line is, Calipari knows that his team will face a big challenge on Saturday.

“They’re not going to beat themselves,” Calipari said. “You’ve got to go in there and beat them. And it’s really hard to do.”

Last season, Arkansas broke an eight-game losing streak to Kentucky with an 81-80 win at Rupp Arena. Kentucky is 8-6 all-time in Bud Walton Arena, most recently winning a 73-66 contest in 2020 behind 17 points and nine rebounds from Nick Richards.

Kentucky guards TyTy Washington Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler remain day-to-day and their status for Saturday’s game remains unknown. If either, or neither, can go, it will make the Cats’ task that much more difficult. Calipari hopes that his team’s previous experiences on the road will prove to be beneficial at Arkansas.

The Bryce is Right: Second-Half Rally Lifts Kentucky Past LSU

Having seen his fellow Kentucky reserves shine when given the opportunity prepared Bryce Hopkins for his chance to make a difference.

Hopkins came off the bench to score a career-high 13 points, including 11 during the second stanza to fuel Kentucky’s 15-2 second-half surge, and Oscar Tshiebwe and Keion Brooks Jr. made late free throws to help the No. 6 Wildcats survive LSU 71-66 on Wednesday night.

The short-handed Wildcats trailed 36-28 just after halftime and needed offense besides Tshiebwe. Hopkins, a 6-foot-6 freshman forward, provided an immediate spark by muscling for baskets and drawing chances at the foul line during the spurt. His traditional three-point play put Kentucky ahead up 39-36 with 15:35 left and came seconds after Tshiebwe grabbed Hopkins’ missed free throw and created two chances ending with Hopkins’ tip-in.

Hopkins was 5 of 6 from the field and had four rebounds in 16 minutes, just enough to give Kentucky a much-needed boost.

”I saw in the first half that we were kind of like playing a little slow,” said Hopkins, who hadn’t played more than four minutes since Jan. 15 and was averaging just a basket a game.

“In the second half Coach (John Calipari) was saying we needed a little energy, so that’s what I tried to do when I came into the game. Just started to bring energy, and just contribute.”

Calipari added, ”All I have been talking about is preparing for an opportunity. … You can listen to everybody tell you it is everybody else or the coach, or you can say when I get my chance, I am going to do what the team needs me to do.”

Hopkins’ jumper made it 43-38 and Kentucky (23-5, 12-3 Southeastern Conference) built a 65-50 lead late before LSU rallied to 68-64 and forced a turnover with 33.2 seconds left. However, Brooks rebounded a missed layup and made two free throws with 13 seconds left, and Tshiebwe answered Darius Days’ layup by making a free throw with 3.1 seconds left to seal Kentucky’s second consecutive victory.

Xavier Pinson had a season-high 26 points for the Tigers (19-9, 7-8) in their second straight loss after three straight wins. Eric Gaines added 11 points and Days had 10 with eight rebounds.

Tshiebwe finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds for Kentucky, which played its second consecutive contest without injured starting guards TyTy Washington Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler. Davion Mintz started and added 13 points, along with Kellan Grady’s 13.

MORE GAME NOTES

• Trailing by 11 points during the first half (27-16), it was the second game in a row and third time this season that Kentucky rallied from a double-digit deficit to win
• Kentucky limited LSU to 36.8% from the field and the Wildcats are 12-0 this season when keeping the opponent under 40%
• Kentucky won the rebounding 36-24, leading to a 17-10 edge in second-chance points
• Tshiebwe had his 10th straight double-double and 22nd of the season

 

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