Kentucky hands Arkansas third consecutive loss

Kentucky guard Antonio Reeves (12) dunks the ball on a fast break against Arkansas during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

FAYETTEVILLE — Kentucky guard Antonio Reeves spoiled Arkansas’ final home game of the regular season Saturday.

The Illinois State transfer scored 37 points on 12 of 17 from the field and 11 of 11 at the free-throw line, and powered the 23rd-ranked Wildcats to an 88-79 victory at Bud Walton Arena. His previous single-game high was 34 points last season against Valparaiso.

Reeves scored the most points by an opposing player against a Musselman-led college team in eight seasons.

"He made a lot of tough shots," Arkansas guard Nick Smith said of Reeves. "He only missed five shots, went 11-for-11 from the free throw line. We’ve just got to come out and be ready for the scout, take the scout very seriously and just try to move on."

Arkansas (19-12, 8-10 SEC) had its second consecutive rough shooting performance. It made 35.7% of its field goal attempts and, according to StatBroadcast, was 2 of 20 on layups.

Smith led the Razorbacks with 25 points on 10 of 23 from the field, and Ricky Council and Anthony Black followed with 16 and 14 points, respectively. Jordan Walsh pitched in 10 points off the bench.

The Wildcats held a lead for 35:30 and took an 11-point lead early in the second half shortly after junior guard Davonte Davis was ejected with 18:15 remaining. Thirty seconds prior, Davis knocked down a left-wing three-pointer to pull the Razorbacks within 42-39.

He was then hit with two personal fouls in a seven-second span. Officials whistled Davis for a technical foul for his reaction to the second foul, and he was tossed moments later as he continued to argue the call in front of Arkansas’ bench.

"I’m not going to talk at all about the referees, because that’s not what we do," Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said. "But certainly Devo is a guy that, from a leadership standpoint, from being a veteran, we’re a better team with us and not in the locker room, so we certainly missed him."

As a result of the technicals, Reeves shot four free throws and made them all. Then he knocked down a jumper with 18:06 to play to put Kentucky up 48-39.

After Black split a pair of free throws, Reeves pushed the Wildcats’ edge to 11 with a three. He scored the first 11 points of the second half for Kentucky, which led by as many as 14 points.

A 7-0 Arkansas run over 1:51 got the Razorbacks within 55-50 with 10:38 to go, but the Wildcats answered with a 5-0 spurt behind a Jacob Toppin three-pointer and Adou Thiero dunk.

Kentucky (21-10, 12-6 SEC) led by at least seven points over the final 6:07 of the game.

Toppin added 21 points for the Wildcats and forward Oscar Tshiebwe finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes before fouling out. Kentucky shot 53.7% from the field.

Arkansas was 22 of 34 at the free throw line, including 16 of 25 in the second half. The Razorbacks committed only six turnovers.

"I can’t remember a game where I’ve had a team only have six turnovers and not win the game," Musselman added. "Certainly the free throws have been a huge concern in tight games, in big games.

"We’ll continue to try to work on it in pressure situations, but that’s been a big concern, for sure."

The Razorbacks will now wait to learn who they will play Thursday at the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn.