SEC MEN’S BASKETBALL: KENTUCKY 87, ARKANSAS 72:

Wildcats stand tall: Kentucky stifles UA after half

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Arkansas' Daniel Gafford comes down with a rebound between Kentucky's P.J. Washington (left), Kevin Knox (5) and Jarred Vanderbilt (2) Tuesday Feb. 20, 2018 during the first half at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas' Daniel Gafford comes down with a rebound between Kentucky's P.J. Washington (left), Kevin Knox (5) and Jarred Vanderbilt (2) Tuesday Feb. 20, 2018 during the first half at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks and Kentucky Wildcats have the same record overall and in SEC play, but the teams were only close for a half Tuesday night in Walton Arena.

Kentucky had a dominating second half to pull away and beat the Razorbacks 87-72 before an announced crowd of 18,083.

The game was tied 43-43 at halftime.

It was Kentucky's sixth consecutive victory over the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville since the Razorbacks swept a home-and-home series against the Wildcats in 2014.

Freshmen scored 80 points for the Wildcats (19-9, 8-7), led by forward Kevin Knox with 23.

Kentucky freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 18 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. Freshman forward PJ Washington added 13 points, freshman guard Quade Green scored 12 points and freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt added 11.

"Give credit to Kentucky," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought they came in and played really well.

"The second half was the difference in the game."

Bench points and rebounding also were big differences in Kentucky's favor.

The Wildcats outscored the Razorbacks 38-6 in bench points -- led by Washington, Green and Vanderbilt -- and had a 46-29 rebounding edge.

"I thought that rebounding was a big difference and their bench outplayed our bench," Anderson said. "So there you have two of the biggest reasons why Kentucky ended up winning this game."

Kentucky's rebounding edge in the second half was 23-12, including 9-2 on the offensive end.

"It seemed like they were so quick to the ball going down the stretch," Anderson said. "Then, of course, we didn't make shots, and you have to make shots against a team like that."

Senior guard Daryl Macon led Arkansas (19-9, 8-7) with 26 points. Senior guard Anton Beard scored 13 points and senior guard added Jaylen Barford 12 for the Razorbacks. Freshman forward Daniel Gafford had 9 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.

Gafford scored inside to pull the Razorbacks within 65-63 with 10:54 left.

Kentucky then outscored Arkansas 13-2 over a 4:09 span, led by Gilgeous-Alexander's eight points, and took a 78-65 lead with 6:48 left.

The Razorbacks went 4:12 without scoring before Macon hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 78-66.

"They made a terrific run at the right time," Macon said. "It was a crucial point in the game.

"After they went on that run, they were just clicking the entire game and that's the type of team once they get on a run, you have to find a way to stop them quick or it could be a long night.

"Whether they're freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, you have to respect them. They can still play ball."

Vanderbilt hit two free throws to give Kentucky an 81-66 lead with 5:03 left.

The Razorbacks didn't pull closer than 13 points the rest of the game and trailed by as many as 17, 87-70, on a dunk by Gilgeous-Alexander's with 30 seconds left.

"I thought the Gilgeous-Alexander kid, he did a good job of controlling the game and getting the ball to the right people," Anderson said. "Our defense didn't really rattle him as much as we thought it could have."

The Wildcats ended the Razorbacks winning streak at four games.

Kentucky won its second consecutive game since enduring a four-game losing streak, it's longest in Coach John Calipari's nine seasons.

Kentucky improved to 31-11 all-time against Arkansas, including 7-7 in Fayetteville.

"They're a good team," Beard said. "Hats off to them. They played well tonight.

"They came in and executed the plan well. They broke our press down, outrebounded us, outsmarted us tonight, so we just have to get back in the gym and get our minds right."

Calipari is now 3-5 at Arkansas, including 1-1 with Memphis and 2-4 with Kentucky.

Arkansas fell to 14-2 in Walton Arena this season. The Razorbacks' other home loss was to LSU 75-54 on Jan. 10.

Macon hit a three-pointer with three seconds left in the first half to tie the game 43-43 going into halftime.

Kentucky's Sacha Killeya-Jones was guarding Macon at the top of the key, but he fell down when Macon made a quick dribble move to get an open look.

Arkansas jumped out to an 11-0 lead as Barford hit a three-pointer, Macon hit back-to-back three-pointers and Dustin Thomas scored on an offensive rebound.

"When you're playing all freshmen -- let me make that statement again -- all freshmen, there are experiences they have to go through," Calipari said. "One of them is being down 11-0 on the road to a team that was so hyped to play this game that it was crazy."

The Wildcats missed their first six shots before Washington scored on a layup.

Trey Thompson hit a 15-foot jumper and scored on a tip-in to put the Razorbacks ahead 17-8.

Kentucky pulled within 17-15 on a dunk by Washington.

Barford's three-pointer made it 20-15.

The Wildcats got a three-pointer by Knox and a layup from Green to tie it 20-20 with 10:19 left in the half.

Macon's three-pointer put Arkansas up 29-24. Beard later hit back-to-back three-pointers to put the Razorbacks ahead 40-35.

Kentucky went up 43-40 with 18.2 seconds left in the half on Washington's three-point play after he stole a pass from Beard.

Game sketch

RECORDS Arkansas 19-9, 8-7 SEC; Kentucky 19-9, 8-7

STARS Kentucky freshman forward Kevin Knox (23 points), freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (18 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds). Arkansas senior guard Daryl Macon (26 points)

TURNING POINT Kentucky had a 13-2 run over a 4:09 span to push its lead from 65-63 to 78-65 with 6:48 left.

KEY STAT The Wildcats outscored the Razorbacks 38-6 in bench points. UP NEXT Arkansas plays Alabama at 5 p.m. Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Sports on 02/21/2018

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