Hogs out-battle Cats in 73-60 win
The Wildcats saw their three-game winning streak come to a crashing halt after committing 19 turnovers and surrendering 20 offensive rebounds in a 73-60 loss to the Razorbacks. Arkansas (18-11, 9-7 SEC) turned those key stats into 42 points in moving to 17-1 at Bud Walton Arena this season.
"I thought we had a good gameplan going in," UK guard Jarrod Polson said. "We tried to take away the drives and make them shoot more... But at the end of the day, they just played harder, really. That's why we lost."
UK coach John Calipari concurred.
"I saw it like everyone else: we got muscled and pushed and (Arkansas) played harder than us, beat us to balls, balls we had a chance to come back and do something with. We just got beat to balls," Calipari said. "This is what we wanted to see, have we moved? Obviously we haven't, and this is our Achilles heel.
"You got guys who want to play cute, don't want to play tough, don't want to come up those tough balls, don't want to play harder than the opponent because it doesn't look right. That's the stuff that's holding us back because, if we can get to that point, we've got enough stuff going on, but right now it just doesn't matter. We've got two games left and one of them is Georgia, who just beat Tennessee, and we know how physical Tennessee plays."
Kentucky (20-9, 11-5 SEC) fell two games back of league leader Florida, who defeated Alabama earlier in the day, and suffered a potential blow to its NCAA Tournament hopes with two challenging games remaining in the regular season at Georgia and at home against the Gators.
The Wildcats lost by decisively despite shooting 47 percent from the field to Arkansas's 35 percent. But the Razorbacks held an eye-popping 69-43 advantage in field goal attempts thanks to UK's propensity for turnovers and lack of rebounding.
Kentucky trailed only 32-29 at the half, but failed to get a shot up in the first 2:50 of the second half. Four straight turnovers helped lead to a 11-0 run by Arkansas that included a pair of 3-pointers and an old-fashioned three-point play.
The Cats responded with a 9-2 spurt of their own capped by a 3-pointer from Alex Poythress to pull within 45-40 with 14:03 remaining, but immediately turned the ball over on their next possession, sparking an 11-2 run for the Razorbacks. UK never challenged again.
Arkansas stretched the lead to 61-46 with 8:12 to go. At that point, the Cats had managed only eight field goal attempts in the half.
Marshawn Powell led the Razorbacks with 15 points and nine rebounds, six coming on the offensive glass. Coty Clarke added 14 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and three steals, while B.J. Young chipped in with 13 points for Arkansas.
Kentucky got 14 points from Archie Goodwin in a return home to his native Arkansas. Willie Cauley-Stein contributed 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots, while Ryan Harrow added 10 points.
The Cats got only nine points and four rebounds from starting forward Poythress and only three points from starting guard Julius Mays, who missed his first seven shots of the game before making a 3-pointer with 1:52 remaining. Kyle Wiltjer, who came off the bench to score five points in the first three and a half minutes of the game, went scoreless the rest of the way.
"There's got to be fight," Calipari said. "My teams have always had a battle mentality. And if you didn't, I just didn't play you. But right now I'm having to play some guys who just won't battle. "I think when they have success, they want to go back and be what they are versus what you have to play to win at this level. I've been doing this for a long time, and there has to be a competitive spirit and a will to win."
* Kentucky leads the all-time series with Arkansas 25-9, but is only 6-6 in Fayetteville.
* The Wildcats suffered their first loss when starting the lineup combination of Cauley-Stein, Goodwin, Harrow, Mays and Poythress. They are now 3-1 with that lineup.
* UK is 2-8 when trailing at the half this season. The Cats were down 32-29 at the intermission against the Razorbacks.
* Kentucky returns to action Thursday at Georgia in a 7 p.m. ET tipoff on ESPN.
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