Postgame Thoughts: Kentucky 87, Arkansas 72

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Arkansas lost 87-72 to Kentucky Tuesday Feb. 20, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas lost 87-72 to Kentucky Tuesday Feb. 20, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Gilgeous-Alexander complements Knox

— For a while Tuesday, it felt like Kevin Knox was the only Kentucky player who could find success on the offensive end, and even he struggled at times before the half, throwing up an airball on a wide open 3.

By the break, he and PJ Washington each had 11 points, but the second half emergence of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was critical for Kentucky in pulling away and snapping a four-game road SEC losing streak.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 14 of his 18 after halftime, complementing a strong night from Knox with several key shots. He knocked down the first of his two second half 3s to put Kentucky up 68-63, then followed with another jumper. Later, he essentially put the dagger in Arkansas with his final triple to put the Cats up 13.

Gilgeous-Alexander also finished with seven assists - five in the second half - and five rebounds. He and Knox combined for 41 points in the win - 26 in the second half. Gilgeous-Alexander was a +19 in his 39 minutes.

"Shai played good in the second half, and that's what we need him to do," Knox said. "He's a point guard, the ball is in his hands and tonight he did a great job finding people in the lane, finishing at the rim and that's what we need from him at the end of the game."

He's finished with four or more assists in 17 of Kentucky's last 20 games, and Tuesday was a nice bounceback game for him scoring the ball after adding just 15 total points last week against Alabama and Auburn.

Macon continues scoring tear

Daryl Macon putting Kentucky's Sacha Killeya-Jones on skates on the final play of the first half and burying a 3 pretty much encapsulates the run he's been on since eeking out a win over Missouri on Jan. 13.

Macon has now scored 20 or more points in nine of Arkansas' last 10 games and, particularly in the second half Tuesday, was Arkansas' only threat to score the ball. Daryl scored 12 of his 26 after the break, and was the only Razorback with more than five points.

Jaylen Barford essentially disappeared and made just 1 of his 8 shots after halftime and Arkansas did not get a single point from its bench over the final 20 minutes - 0/2 FG, 5 rebounds, 3 turnovers. It put much of the offensive burden on Macon, who handled it pretty well until the final few minutes.

Monday, Macon provided some great perspective about his time at Arkansas soon coming to a close and having - at the time - only a couple of home games remaining. Tuesday night obviously didn't go according to plan for him, but you can see the passion and the want to win in his eyes, body language and his play.

Daryl is on one of the more remarkable scoring tears in program history right now and it's been a real joy to watch.

Dustin Thomas

I thought Tuesday night could be a game Dustin Thomas' edge, physicality and mean streak played a key role.

It did. Problem is, he limited his own effectiveness by getting into early foul trouble. Thomas was extremely active on the glass as Arkansas jumped out to an 11-0 lead. He grabbed a defensive rebound on one end, came down and assisted on Arkansas' first 3 of the night.

Thomas grabbed five rebounds in the opening three minutes of the game and finished with 10 - tying a career high - in only 20 minutes. He finished the night +7 in his time on the floor, and Mike Anderson certainly could have used him as Kentucky settled in and got back into the game midway through the first half.

Anderson said Thomas was the bright spot for Arkansas. He finished 3 of 4 from the floor and showcased his midrange game on a couple of occasions much like he did in the win over Texas A&M.

Road Cats

Mike Anderson said Kentucky's freshmen aren't really freshmen anymore in terms of their mindset and level of play.

Those young players have now gone into two of college basketball's toughest, most hostile venues in West Virginia and Arkansas and made statements. Whether you like Kentucky or not, those are two of the more impressive road wins of the year.

And in both instances, Kevin Knox has led the charge for Kentucky. He scored a career-high 34 points in the win in Morgantown and again led the Cats with 23 Tuesday night.

Knox is a pro. He's got the ability to step out beyond the 3-point line every now and then, and he can take his defender to the rim as well. If he remains steady and gets solid contributions from teammates - 4 others in double figures, 3 off the bench - then Kentucky becomes a very dangerous team.

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