Tshiebwe’s 30 points not enough as No. 6 Kentucky loses 75-73 at No. 18 Arkansas


Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) reacts after missing a dunk during the UK vs. Louisiana State University mens basketball game on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 71-66. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

The Oscar Tshiebwe Express ran out of gas in Fayetteville, as No. 6 Kentucky (23-6, 12-4 Southeastern Conference) fell 75-73 to No. 18 Arkansas (23-6, 12-4 SEC) inside Bud Walton Arena.  

Tshiebwe poured in 30 points on 13-21 shooting, tying his season high. He went toe-to-toe with Arkansas’ JD Notae, who also dropped a season-high 30 on Saturday afternoon.  

Fayetteville witnessed a barnburner and potential SEC Championship preview, as the Wildcats and Razorbacks traded leads 17 times in the second half.  

Kentucky faced a large deficit early, allowing a 15-0 Razorback run after making the first basket of the game.  

Arkansas would hold a near-double-digit lead for much of the opening half, stifling Kentucky’s guard play. Four UK guards totaled just six points on 2-14 shooting.  

Kellan Grady was noticeably absent on Saturday, as he failed to make a shot until the 2:21 mark in the second half. He would finish with three points, taking just three shots in 30 minutes.  

“[Grady] did not work until the very last three,” Calipari said.  

The Cats were fully manned for the first time in over a week, as the usual starting backcourt of TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler returned to the court after sitting out UK’s previous two games due to injury.  

Neither player would start, as Calipari eased them both back into action inside a raucous Bud Walton Arena.  

“They were rusty to get started,” he said. “The way we started the game…just unaggressive, it puts a sad look on your face.” 

Kentucky entered halftime down just six points thanks to Tshiebwe, who totaled his 23rd double-double of the season, collecting 14 points and 12 rebounds in 19 minutes, accounting for UK’s first nine points of the afternoon.  

“After I saw the start of the game, I said ‘we’re throwing it to Oscar every single time we can,” Calipari said. “If you’re timid and you don’t want to do stuff, throw it to him.”  

Even with Tshiebwe’s early dominance, Kentucky shot 33.3 percent from the field, failing to make a 3-pointer in the process, missing all eight attempts.  

Notae’s 18 first-half points paced the Razorbacks to 46.7 percent shooting and a 34-28 lead.  

“[Arkansas] went through Notae and he did pretty good,” Calipari said. “I tried to put Jacob [Toppin] on him…couldn’t play, I don’t know what the problem was.”  

The cavalry would do its best to flank Tshiebwe after the break, as Wheeler added 10 points, four assists and two rebounds, while Washington scored eight on 2-6 shooting.  

Keion Brooks Jr provided some help down low, scoring eight points of his own in the half. The junior forward finished with 14 points and five rebounds.  

An 8-2 run early in the second half that capped by a Brooks euro-step layup provided UK with its first lead since the 2-0 start.  

Notae and forward Jaylin Williams each added 12 second-half points, making a living out of the pick-and-roll.  

Kentucky continued to play through Tshiebwe, as the big man upped his efficiency, shooting 8-11 in the half for 16 more points.  

Down by two points with under three minutes remaining, Grady finally shook his defender to get open in the corner, burying a much-needed trey to give the Cats what would be their final lead of the afternoon.  

Williams would rattle home a jumper to put the Hogs up by one, leading towards the biggest call of the game. 

After a UK timeout, the Cats inbounded the ball to Brooks, who was called for an offensive foul after shoving off his defender.  

“Let me go watch the tape,” Calipari said. “i’m not sure you should make that [call] and it was the game, that play. It may have been the right call, we’ll see.”  

Williams connected on both free throws after a Wheeler foul, putting Arkansas up three with 36 seconds remaining.  

Yet another Calipari timeout would go to waste, as Brooks heaved a 3-pointer that failed todrop, putting the Hogs back at the line.  

“It was a good shot for him, I wish he would’ve made it, but it was a good shot for him,” Calipari said.  

Arkansas added one free throw to its tally, leaving UK 13 seconds to erase a four-point deficit.  

A Washington trey would be swatted away, before Grady failed to hit rim on a corner 3-pointer out of UK’s final timeout.  

“Let’s all recognize that we could have done better,” Calipari said. “I could have done better, the last play for Kellan…I had another call and I didn’t make it.”  

Washington heaved a last-second deep ball to close the gap at the buzzer, but Bud Walton Arena erupted as their Razorbacks earned yet-another ranked win in Fayetteville.  

Despite shooting 57 percent in the second half, Kentucky could not stop Notae and Williams en route to its fourth SEC loss of the season.  

“They’re not robots, they’re not machines and they did not play well,” Calipari said.  

With Selection Sunday just over two weeks away, Kentucky will return home for its final home game of the season on Tuesday, March 1, welcoming the struggling Ole Miss Rebels (13-16, 4-12 SEC) to Rupp Arena.  

“We’re playing for something bigger than just the seed or the league championship,” Calipari said.  

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. EST as March Madness looms.