Short-Handed Cats Down Arkansas in Fayetteville
Everything seemed to be stacked against No. 23 Kentucky on Saturday. Consider:
– The Cats were facing an Arkansas team that won by 15 at Rupp Arena about a month ago
– UK was playing in a very hostile Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville
– Kentucky was without both of its point guards, Cason Wallace and Sahvir Wheeler
– The Cats coming off a disappointing loss against Vanderbilt on Wednesday
Never fear, Big Blue Nation. Saturday’s terrific trio, Antonio Reeves, Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe, were on the case. And that pair carried the 23rd-ranked Cats to a 88-79 win on Saturday.
Reeves had the hot hand for the entire game. He made 12 of 17 from the field, including two of four from long range, and made 11 of 11 from the free throw line on his way to a career-high 37 points. Reeves also handled many of the point guard duties with Wallace and Wheeler out.
Toppin came up huge late on his way to 21 points. He made seven of eight free throws, a number of them late in the game, to seal the victory. Toppin also carried some of the ballhandling duties, dishing out three assists for the Cats.
Meanwhile, Tshiebwe was, well, Tshiebwe. The defending National Player of the Year had 12 points and 13 rebounds, his 46th career double-double, before fouling out.
Kentucky also got key contributions from other players. Chris Livingston scored just one point but did grab nine rebounds. Adou Thiero scored a career-high seven points. Lance Ware had two crucial second-half baskets and grabbed five rebounds. Daimion Collins had four points in five minutes.
The victory also allowed Kentucky to turn the tables on Arkansas after the Hogs handled the Cats last month in Lexington. This time, it was UK that took control early and never gave it up.
Kentucky finishes the regular season at 21-10, including 12-6 in Southeastern Conference play. UK will be the three seed in next week’s SEC Tournament. The Cats will begin play in Nashville on Friday evening against an opponent still to be determined.
It didn’t appear to be Kentucky’s day prior to tipoff on Saturday. But thanks to a terrific trio and a bunch of key role players, the Cats came out of Fayetteville with a win.