FAYETTEVILLE — Antonio Reeves has saved some of his best games for Bud Walton Arena, and Kentucky needed every bit of it Saturday.
Reeves, who torched Arkansas for 37 points last season in a Kentucky win, scored a game-high 24 points Saturday as the Wildcats overcame a dreadful start to walk away with a 63-57 win.
Kentucky (15-4, 5-2 SEC) opened the game shooting 1 of 18 from the floor and did not record its second made field goal until the 9:24 mark of the first half.
Reeves was surprised to hear that statistic in the postgame interview.
“1 for 18? I did not know that,” Reeves said. “I just knew keep shooting and they are eventually going to fall. That's all I was thinking about.”
Eventually the shots did fall for the Wildcats, but they never fell in bunches as Kentucky was held to under 65 points for the second straight game. The Wildcats scored just 62 in a 79-62 loss to South Carolina on Tuesday.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said he had to reach down and find the patience until his team could shoot its way out of the early deficit.
“I had someone tell me at halftime, 'Coach, you have unbelievable patience,'” Calipari said. “Because I'm watching them miss layups. I said it's good to have you back, Adou [Thiero], missing layups.”
The game could have gone completely different had Kentucky not turned up the defensive intensity. Arkansas (10-10, 1-6) jumped to an early lead, but never a big lead, despite Kentucky's poor shooting. The Razorbacks led by 10 in the first half, but never were able to pull away.
Reeves said the key on the defensive end was putting in the work in practice and sticking with the game plan.
“Honestly we just stayed with the scouting report. We're doing that better,” he said. “We have a lot of young guys who really didn't know what was going on. So eventually they started picking up on it. That's what it was, seeing who the shooters were and who the drivers were and we just dialed into it.”
Arkansas led 26-24 at halftime and 37-31 in the second half before Kentucky used a 7-0 run to take a 38-37 lead on Reed Sheppard's steal and dunk with 12:54 left. Sheppard finished with 14 points and 5 assists.
Arkansas, which played without Trevon Brazile (knee injury) and Davonte "Devo" Davis (out for personal reasons), showed a lot of grit to keep battling and were within 53-52 with just under three minutes left before Kentucky pulled away.
Reeves said playing on the road against big crowds is something he looks forward to. A loud arena, like the one Saturday that was hyped following ESPN's "College GameDay," seems to bring out the best in the 6-6 guard.
“I feel like every time I play here I have a good game,” he said. “I just have a mentality to go out there and score for the team if they're not scoring. [I'm] just staying aggressive at all times, just figuring out what shots to take, what shots not to and just play within the offense.”
Eventually those shots started to fall for Reeves, just like they did in the past in Fayetteville.