Cats squeak by with comeback win over Arkansas


Freshman guard Ashton Hagans, Freshman guard Keldon Johnson, and Freshman guard Tyler Herro (left to right) walking down the court after a timeout. No. 4 ranked UK men’s basketball team played Arkansas at Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

It took every second of the game, but the UK basketball team survived an upset scare by the Arkansas Razorbacks, coming out of Rupp Arena with the 70-66 win. They trailed by as many as 15 in the second half.

The first half belonged entirely to the Razorbacks. The more aggressive team, they forced 12 Kentucky turnovers and cooked the unprepared Cats in transition. Freshman guard Isaiah Joe lit the Cats up from behind the three-point line in the half, making four of his five three-point attempts and finishing the half with 16 points.

The Hogs led by 11 at halftime, even though star forward Daniel Gafford sat on the bench for nearly all of the first half with two fouls.

Coming back in out of the break, SEC Network’s Laura Ruteledge learned that Tyler Herro tweaked his right ankle in the first half and would be playing slightly injured.

UK didn’t respond very well immediately, as Arkansas built its lead to as much as 15 points in the second half.

The injured player then immediately took over for the Cats, scoring a game-high 29 points. He missed only one shot, and scored a pair of the game-icing free throws when the clock neared zero.

UK’s usual star struggled against the Razorbacks. P.J. Washington scored only nine points and grabbed just six rebounds. His limited post production, plus the injury absence of Reid Travis, left the door wide open for another player to take over in the game.

That player was Nick Richards, who’s been on-and-off this season. The sophomore center finished with seven points and 15 rebounds, with the task of matching up against Gafford.

UK took the lead for the first time in the second half with 7:07 left to go in the game, and hardly let it go through the rest of the contest.

The contest got extremely tight down the stretch, when Arkansas guard Mason Jones hit a three to bring the game to within one with 12 seconds to go in the game. The Cats got the ball to Herro for him to knock down two free throws.

The Razorbacks got to the foul line the next possession, only hitting one free throw and intentionally missing the next. A rim violation gave the Cats the ball, but the inbounder isn’t allowed to move along the baseline in those situations.

Controversy ensued as Hagans, the inbounder, passed the ball to Keldon Johnson and it was knocked out of bounds. The call on the floor was that the ball belonged to Kentucky, and review didn’t show enough to overturn the call. Kentucky inbounded the ball to Immanuel Quickley, who hit the final two free throws to end the game.

Kentucky keeps its tie with LSU for the top of the SEC standings, but LSU will need to lose if the Cats want to win the regular season title. The Tigers hold the tiebreaker over both UK and Tennessee.