Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Kentucky landed haymakers on Hogs
Kentucky center Oscar Tshiebwe (left) and Arkansas center Makhi Mitchell exchange words during a game Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Fayetteville.
That old hockey joke kept coming to mind Saturday watching Arkansas and Kentucky.
Went to a fight and a basketball game broke out.
In the end, it was payback as the Razorbacks split the games with the Wildcats, each winning on the other’s court, and Saturday 88-79 win by Kentucky wasn’t an accident.
The Wildcats took better shots, making 29 of 54 attempts, while the Hogs missed 45 shots, hitting just 25 of 70, and they also missed 12 free throws.
Shooting is an important part of basketball, crucial to say the least, but Kentucky’s man-to-man and zone defenses were too much for the Razorbacks who need transition buckets and points off turnovers.
On Saturday, they got a total of 28 from those, and that probably won’t ever beat Kentucky.
Emotions were running so high that the three officials were all out to keep control of the game.
Those guys earned their rumored $2,000 (per game), calling 52 fouls, 26 for each team, and whistling three technical fouls in a heavyweight showdown in which three players fouled out and three others survived the game with four fouls.
In seven short seconds — from the 18:22 mark in the second half to the 18:15 — Arkansas’ Davonte Davis was called for two technicals and two regular fouls. If any player has received four fouls in that span before it wasn’t witnessed by yours truly.
Some of his frustrations were understood. Davis always draws the toughest defensive assignment, and while he didn’t get 6-9 reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe, he got Antonio Reeves who had the game of his life.
The transfer from Illinois State scored 37 points, a career high, hitting 12 of 17 attempts including 2 of 4 from behind the arc and 11 of 11 free throws.
He scored Kentucky’s first 11 points in the second half, and it appeared the refs should have had a few assists.
Probably the hardest part for both teams to accept was the consistent inconsistencies from a crew that drew the game of the day on CBS.
Months ago when every team was undefeated, the coaches and media agreed that Kentucky would win the SEC and Arkansas would be a close second.
On Saturday, the Wildcats finished at least tied for third and the Razorbacks ninth or 10th, but this has been a crazy season for the Razorbacks losing Trevon Brazile in early December and Nick Smith Jr. for 19 games.
Going into the SEC Tournament the Razorbacks are 19-12 overall and 8-10 in SEC play, and no one knows for sure if they will be part of the NCAA Tournament.
Logic says they need to get a win or two this week in Nashville.
Yes, the Hogs have a great NCAA NET ranking, but that is a small cog in the big wheel when it comes to the NCAA Tournament selection committee making its picks.
The Razorbacks showed a lot of heart Saturday and were within seven, 66-59, with 5:46 to play but didn’t get another field goal until Anthony Black hit a three with 3:04 to play.
Down the stretch the Wildcats hit their free throws and kept the Razorbacks off balance with a tough zone.
There are a lot of rumors about Kentucky and head coach John Calipari. That after 14 seasons the Wildcat Nation wants more, much more, than just making the NCAA Tournament.
Their last visit to the Final Four was 2015. They didn’t make March Madness in 2021 and went out in the first round last season.
If Saturday was Calipari’s final visit to Bud Walton Arena, it was a memorable one. There was some good basketball played when the teams weren’t pushing and shoving and whistles weren’t being blown.
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