[SLIDESHOW] UK demolishes Arkansas 101-70


The Kentucky Wildcats face off against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the first half of the game at Rupp Arena on Saturday. Photo by Zach Brake

Chants of “number one” rained down from the Rupp Arena rafters as the final seconds ticked off the clock, and the No. 2 Cats (19-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) stood alone as the only undefeated team in the country with an emphatic 101-70 win over Arkansas (8-11, 1-3 SEC).

The Cats began the game on a 10-0 run, and didn’t allow the Razorbacks within 10 points from the 13:36 mark in the first half until the final buzzer. UK head coach John Calipari said he wasn’t sure if the Cats were the No. 1 team, but they did play well.

“(Arkansas) hit a buzzsaw today,” Calipari said. “If we played anyone in the country today they were going to get smashed. Now I’m not trying to be arrogant, I’m just being real.”

Arkansas’ leading scorer, and the top 3-point shooter in the SEC, Rotnei Clarke, didn’t hit his first 3-pointer until 15:21 remained in the second half. For the game Clarke shot a pedestrian 5-for-15 from the field and 2-for-9 from behind the arc to finish with 13 points.

Calipari, who recruited Clarke out of high school, said they were very conscious of Clarke on the floor. He said they all knew how good he was and because he didn’t get going it hurt Arkansas’ chances of beating them.

The win on Saturday almost guarantees UK the No. 1 ranking in next week’s polls which will be released on Monday. Calipari said what UK has to guard against now is the outside influences that could get in their heads. While Calipari said the team wanted to be No. 1 badly, some of the players said it hadn’t quite registered in their minds.

“None of us really thought about (being No. 1),” freshman forward Daniel Orton said. “We just focused on it being another game and winning it.”

Unlike previous games where the Cats would build a large lead and let the opposing team back into it, the Cats put their foot on the gas from the beginning and never slowed down. The Cats held a 30-point lead at the break, and used a 14-0 run to begin the second half to stretch the lead to 44. The Cats held their largest lead, 46 points, at the 15:41 mark, and didn’t allow Arkansas to get closer than 29 the rest of the way.

“That’s the most complete game so far,” freshman guard Eric Bledsoe said. “I think we played all 40 minutes.”

Early in those 40 minutes was a rough play for freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins. In driving to the basket, Arkansas guard Courtney Fortson caught Cousins in the mouth with an inadvertent elbow. The blow broke two crowns in Cousins’ mouth and he went to UK Healthcare after the game to get them repaired. Bledsoe joked about Cousins’ new appearance after the game.

“He looked like Curly off ‘The Little Rascals,’ ” Bledsoe said.

“He knew we were going to make some jokes on him.”

Cousins wasn’t the only one who experienced some pain in the UK rout. With 7:57 remaining in the first half, freshman guard John Wall sat on the bench in visible pain while trainers attended to his knee. Wall said the pain came from tendinitis in his right knee, and simply putting Icy Hot on it and a pad can alleviate the pain.

“When you hit knees with somebody it tingles a little bit,” Wall said.

With 17:06 to go in the second half four UK players had reached double figures in scoring while only four Arkansas players had even scored. The win was more of the complete effort on UK’s part that  Calipari had been asking for. Calipari said he believed their past week of practice where they played as if they were on a two-game losing streak helped.

Now the Cats will begin a new hurdle in their season; playing as the top-ranked team in the country. It’s a task Calipari welcomes in their quest to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“Those seven national titles are not a burden they’re a badge of honor,” Calipari said. “Number one is not a burden it’s a badge of honor, and so for us we’ll see how we respond now.”