FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – On paper this is the worst Kentucky team since John Calipari’s been the coach. Even in the enviorns of Hog-friendly Bud Walton Arena, the Arkansas basketball team could not best its nemesis.
Kentucky won for the sixth straight time over Arkansas and pulled itself into a tie with the Razorbacks in the SEC standings after an 87-72 win Tuesday night.
The reality of the situation is, no, this isn’t Calipari’s worst batch of Wildcats. They will finish, no matter what, with the worst SEC record any of his team’s have. But in a league that’s better than it’s been in his tenure, it sounds worse than it is.
Still, two teams tied at 8-7 in league play doesn’t exactly inspire confidence for either fan base for deep NCAA Tournament runs.
Arkansas (19-9, 8-7), perhaps, more so. The Razorbacks had been playing high-quality basketball over the last two weeks. The final 10 minutes Tuesday were nothing of the sort. Odd, too, given the closeness of the game for the previous 20 minutes.
The last time either Kentucky or Arkansas had more than a two-possession lead was with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. That is until Kentucky went ahead by seven with 9:12 left. Arkansas’ response was curious, if not outright baffling.
Jaylen Barford, who finished with 10 points on 3 of 14 shooting, took a turnaround fadeaway jumper from the elbow. Next possession, the ball rolled off Daryl Macon’s leg sending a mass of humanity to the floor to recover it. After that, Anton Beard drove to the hoop, had the ball poked away out of bounds, ultimately going off his hip.
It was a rather unimpressive and head-shaking display for about four minutes. Kentucky managed to stretch its lead out to 14 with less than 6 minutes left. Only about 6 minutes before that things were still stalemated. Kentucky went on quick 7-0 run over the course of 48 seconds ahead of the under-12 timeout. Kevin Knox’s lay-up with 11:39 left forced Mike Anderson’s hand. The Razorbacks coach called a timeout even with the TV break coming. Things were never the same.
Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander did massive amounts of damage, especially in the second half. Five Kentucky players finished in double figures, led by those two with 23 and 16.
Daryl Macon did what he could to keep Arkansas offensively able with 26 points. But Barford’s 10 were well below his season average and Daniel Gafford was just 2 of 6 from the field, finishing with 9. Anton Beard had 13 points.
Arkansas now finds itself in a four-way for fourth in the SEC with Kentucky, Mississippi State and Missouri.
Daryl Macon’s offense is almost always good. It was definitely on Tuesday night. He went 8 of 16 from the floor, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range.
The bench, which has been loads of up and down this SEC season for Arkansas, had a rough night. They had just 6 points. Kentucky’s bench had 36.
What’s next for Arkansas?
Arkansas hits the road this weekend for a game at Alabama, which shares third in the SEC with Florida. The Razorbacks have two road SEC wins this year.