Hogs hope to solve new batch of 'Cats

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Jaylen Barford of Arkansas jumps for a dunk in the second half against Texas A&M Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, during the game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Jaylen Barford of Arkansas jumps for a dunk in the second half against Texas A&M Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, during the game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks have won 88 basketball games since the start of the 2014-2015 season, but none have been against Kentucky.

The Wildcats have won five in a row over the Razorbacks since the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville swept a home-and-home series from Kentucky in 2014. That means no current Razorbacks have beaten Kentucky.

The Razorbacks will try to change that when Arkansas (19-8, 8-6 SEC) plays the Wildcats (18-9, 7-7) at 8 tonight in Walton Arena for an ESPN national telecast.

"It'll feel good to play those guys again and try to beat them," Arkansas senior guard Jaylen Barford said. "I mean, they do have to come to Bud Walton."

It will be the Wildcats' first visit to Walton Arena since 2016, when Kentucky won 80-66.

Two of the Wildcats' victories in their winning streak over the Razorbacks were in Rupp Arena and two were in the SEC Tournament championship game in Nashville, Tenn., which is a home away from home for Kentucky.

Barford and senior guard Daryl Macon -- averaging a combined 35.6 points for the Razorbacks -- will experience their first home game against Kentucky.

As junior-college transfers, Barford's and Macon's only previous games against Kentucky came last season when the Wildcats won 97-71 at home and 82-65 in Nashville.

"It'll be an amazing experience here knowing it's sold out," Macon said. "The fact that we're playing Kentucky in Bud Walton is going to be an exciting moment for us."

Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson didn't want to say much about the Wildcats' winning streak in the series.

"We played them, they beat us," Anderson said. "So now it's next game and so our guys are looking forward to it."

Kentucky Coach John Calipari said he expects a motivated opponent and raucous crowd.

"Just like about every other team we play on the road," Calipari said. "They're all sold out and they're all big games.

"I would expect them to play and get after it. It'll be a hard one. They're starting four seniors; we're starting five freshmen."

Six freshmen have started between 27 and 13 games for the Wildcats, though in the last two games sophomore Wenyen Gabriel has joined freshmen Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo, Nick Richards and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the starting lineup.

Arkansas has started four seniors -- Anton Beard, Dustin Thomas, Barford and Macon -- much of the season, along with freshman Daniel Gafford.

"Their freshmen are pretty good," Macon said. "You've got to give it to them. They always produce good freshmen.

"I think at the end of the day it doesn't matter if you're a senior or a freshman, you've still got to play basketball. There are some freshmen that are better than most seniors. I mean, that's just how it is."

Five Kentucky freshmen were McDonald's High School All-Americans last year: Knox, Richards, Quade Green, Jarred Vanderbilt and P.J. Washington. Wildcats sophomore Sacha Killeya-Jones also was a McDonald's All-American.

"This day and time, it doesn't matter if you're a freshman, sophomore, junior," Anderson said. "You're a good basketball player. That's what you're seeing with a lot of teams.

"Some of your better teams are young teams. But they all put their uniforms on the same. You hope the experience of some of the older guys can pay off, especially when adversity takes place.

"You have a settling force and some guys knowing what to do. But the freshmen, nowadays, they're so talented. [Kentucky] is very, very talented."

The Wildcats have experienced some growing pains, especially on the road, where they're 3-5 with losses at Tennessee, South Carolina, Missouri, Texas A&M and Auburn.

Kentucky suffered through a four-game losing streak -- the longest in Calipari's nine seasons -- before the Wildcats beat Alabama 81-71 on Saturday in Rupp Arena.

"Like I told them, I wish I could talk them through an experience," Calipari said. "But you can't. They've got to live the experience themselves. They've got to learn from it. You can't skip steps. It is what it is.

"They've never worked harder in their life at the game of basketball. They've never been more disciplined off the court than they are now. They've never been asked to do, both on and off the court, as much as they've been asked."

Calipari said the Wildcats are getting better.

"I don't know what that means walking into Arkansas," he said.

The Razorbacks beat Texas A&M 94-75 on Saturday for their fourth consecutive victory.

"They're not going to give us the game," Calipari said. "So you have to go and say we've got to go and take the game -- from seniors.

"Now we'll see where we are on the road in this kind of environment."

Sports on 02/20/2018


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