Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
ARKANSAS 71, NO. 17 KENTUCKY 67, OT:
UA leaves Kentucky blue again
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson watches during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Lexington, Ky. Arkansas won 71-67 in overtime. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Arkansas cast off a 20-year drought at Rupp Arena, pulled off a sweep of Kentucky and gave its postseason chances a shot in the arm with a 71-67 victory in overtime Thursday night.
The surging Razorbacks made 16 of 16 free throws, including 6 of 6 in overtime, to hold off the Wildcats before a crowd of 23,908 at Rupp Arena.
Arkansas broke a nine-game losing streak at Kentucky, swept the Wildcats for the first time since joining the SEC, and became the first team to beat Kentucky twice in the same season since John Calipari took over as the Wildcats coach.
“I think it was just desire,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “Our guys wanted it. They wanted it more. They wanted it, and you could see it going down the stretch.”
RECORDS Arkansas 19-9, 8-7 SEC; Kentucky 21-7, 11-4
STARS Arkansas’ Michael Qualls had 14 points, which included making 2 of 4 from three-point range, while Arkansas’ Ky Madden and Coty Clarke combined for 23 points and went 14 of 14 from the free-throw line. Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Julius Randle had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
TURNING POINT Arkansas never trailed in overtime after Coty Clarke made a three-pointer at the 3:27 mark to give the Hogs a 63-60 lead.
KEY STAT Arkansas was 16 of 16 from the free-throw line, including 6 of 6 in overtime by Coty Clarke and Kikko Haydar.
Arkansas (19-9, 8-7 SEC)won for the sixth time in seven games and remained in a four-way tie for fourth place in the SEC. Kentucky (21-7, 11-4), which shot 34.2 percent, trailed most of the game but mounted a late comeback to take a five-point lead before Arkansas rallied for its second overtime victory against the Wildcats this season.
“Our guys are playing with a lot of confidence,” Anderson said. “We knew it was going to take an outstanding performance by our basketball team, especially on defense … and not getting annihilated on the glass.”
The Razorback beat Kentucky 87-85 in Fayetteville on Michael Qualls’ putback dunk in the final second Jan. 14.
Calipari said he didn’t see a performance like this coming after his team’s 77-76 overtime victory against LSU on Saturday.
“We took two steps back today,” Calipari said. “And give them credit. They played hard. They turned us over. … We took a big step back, a great lesson.”
Qualls led the Razorbacks with 14 points, 11 in the first half, while Ky Madden scored 12, which included making 8 of 8 free throws. Coty Clarke added 11 and Anthlon Bell scored 10.
Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein scored 16 points and tied a career high with 13 rebounds, while Julius Randle had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Arkansas shot 41.4 percent and was outrebonded 47-38, but the Razorbacks’ perfection from the free-throw line proved to be the key.
“I’d say it was the difference for us,” said Clarke, who went 6 of 6 from the line and blocked a Kentucky shot at the end of regulation. “For them, I’d say they got tired. You could tell. They were going up there and missing.”
Arkansas scored the final four points of regulation on Alandise Harris’s backdoor layup off a pass from Madden at the 1:00 mark and a pair of free throws by Madden with29.6 seconds left that tied the score 60-60.
Kentucky did not call time out for the final sequence, allowing freshman guard Andrew Harrison to dribble down the heart of the lane in the waning seconds. Arkansas’ Clarke left his man to come over and swat the ball away with about four seconds left, and Harris’ heave from 25 feet at the regulation buzzer bounced off the glass.
“Last play, they were going to dribble penetrate and … we talked about protecting the rim, because they’re going to try to get past those guys and we’ve got to have a rim protector back there,” Anderson said.
Arkansas led 50-43 on a three-pointer by Bell with 12:03 remaining, but Kentucky turned up the heat on defense and the Razorbacks had trouble finding continuity on offense.
The Wildcats pulled off a slow-motion comeback, tying it 52-52 with a 9-2 run over 6:03 on a free throw by Randle with six minutes remaining.
Kentucky took the lead on Cauley-Stein’s putback dunk at the 5:34 mark and extended it on Aaron Harrison’s three-pointer at 4:42.
Bell hit a 14-footer to break a short scoring drought for Arkansas, which managed only 10 points in the final 12:03 of regulation.
The Razorbacks played at their favored tempo for much of the game, an up-and-down pace with a lot of quick transitions. Kentucky led for only 3:30 in the first half, the last at 13-11 before Qualls’ steal and dunk tied it again.
Clarke hit a three-pointer from the left wing to open the overtime scoring at the 3:27 mark, and the Wildcats never caught up.
Clarke and Kikko Haydar each hit a pair of free throws with 36.7 seconds and 17.9 seconds remaining, respectively. Haydar’s shots put Arkansas ahead 71-67.
Kentucky, which shot 2 for 8 in overtime, got three-point attempts from the Harrison twins, Aaron and Andrew, in the waning seconds, but both missed and Clarke’s rebound salted away the victory.
Sports, Pages 19 on 02/28/2014