Five days after losing at Auburn, Kentucky looks like one of the country’s best teams again.
It’s been a bumpy ride for John Calipari’s Wildcats (14-4, 4-2 SEC), but they responded to this weekend’s forgettable road upset by clobbering Arkansas, 80-66, on Thursday night.
The victory was Kentucky’s first at Bud Walton Arena in six years, and Calipari’s first in 12 years. Cal’s teams are now 2-4 overall in Fayetteville. Here’s what else you need to know:
The turning point: Kentucky did not allow a single Arkansas field goal for a 2:29 stretch near the end of the first half. That allowed the Wildcats to build a 12-point halftime lead, and Arkansas never got closer than 10 in the second half.
MVP: Derek Willis. A strong team effort was spearheaded by the post play of freshman Skal Labissiere (11 points, three blocks) and Willis, who shot 5-for-8 and collected 12 points, seven rebounds and a game-high four blocks.
Memorable moment: Calipari was seen celebrating on the sideline after Labissiere threw down a huge second-half dunk.
Starting lineup: Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Alex Poythress
Off the bench: Marcus Lee, Skal Labissiere, Charles Matthews, EJ Floreal
Cleaning up the glass: Kentucky led, 36-24, at halftime … Lee (four points) fouled out with 10:16 remaining in the game … Arkansas entered tied for second in the nation in three-point percentage (.447) but shot just 2-for-12 (.167) from deep Thursday … Ulis and Murray combined for 31 points in the second half.
John Calipari’s teams at Arkansas:
- Arkansas 74, Memphis 68 — Dec. 2, 2000
- Memphis 72, Arkansas 67 — Jan. 2, 2003
- Arkansas 77, Kentucky 76 (OT) — Feb. 23, 2011
- Arkansas 73, Kentucky 60 — March 2, 2013
- Arkansas 87, Kentucky 85 (OT) — Jan. 14, 2014
What’s next: Sat., Jan. 23 vs. Vanderbilt (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)