At the buzzer: Arkansas defeats Kentucky mens basketball 88-73


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats gaurd Cason Wallace (22) drives the ball during the Kentucky vs. Arkansas mens basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky mens basketball was defeated by Arkansas 88-73 on Tuesday, falling to 16-8 on the season and 7-4 in the SEC.

The Wildcats entered the matchup on the back of a 72-67 win over Florida on Saturday, marking the sixth-consecutive SEC victory for Kentucky since its infamous loss to South Carolina inside Rupp Arena on Jan. 10.

The string of conference victories led to Kentucky finally being projected outside of the “First Four” of the NCAA Tournament in ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s “Bracketology”. While still far from comfortably in the field, the matchup against the Razorbacks was a big opportunity for the Wildcats to earn a quadrant-1 victory to improve their resume.

Beginning with a starting lineup of CJ Fredrick, Cason Wallace, Jacob Toppin, Chris Livingston and Oscar Tshiebwe, the Wildcats squared off against Arkansas’ starting five of Anthony Black, Ricky Council IV, Davonte Davis, Makhi Mitchell and Makhel Mitchell.

Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) reacts to a foul call during the Kentucky vs. Arkansas mens basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Unfortunately for the Cats, they’d be at a disadvantage even before the opening tipoff with veteran point guard Sahvir Wheeler being ruled out of the game after tweaking his ankle in practice.

With the game kicking off just after 9 p.m., the Wildcats won the opening tipoff but would be blocked by the Razorbacks. Luckily for Kentucky, the Cats were able to keep Arkansas scoreless on its first possession and scored the first point of the night courtesy of a free throw from Livingston just over a minute into the game.

Despite that, the Wildcats didn’t score their first field goal until over three minutes into the game when Livingston connected on a layup. Wallace then quickly added another two points with a layup on the very next possession.

The Razorbacks led 16-13 with 12 minutes left in the half, with Livingston and Wallace combining for nine of UK’s points, with the other four coming from Tshiebwe and Toppin. While UK was shooting a solid 42% from the floor, the Razorbacks were shooting 50% from the floor and 50% from beyond the arc, knocking down two deep balls.

It wouldn’t be until over 15 minutes into the game when the Cats scored their first 3-pointer when Antonio Reeves drained one from deep with 4:50 left in the half.

The Wildcats would storm ahead to retake the lead with just over a minute left in the half, but a controversial no-call against Arkansas led to Kentucky head coach John Calipari receiving a technical foul. As such, the Razorbacks entered the halfway break with a 41-40 lead after Kentucky’s Daimion Collins knocked down a mid-range jumper as time expired.

As a team Kentucky shot 53% from the field and 17% from beyond the arc, with Wallace leading all scorers at the break with 11 points.

The Cats kicked off the second half with history not on their side, leading for under four minutes in the first half and having entered the game with a 2-7 record when trailing at halftime during the season.

Adding to Kentucky’s misfortune, the Razorbacks, and more specifically Anthony Black with two dunks, scored the first three baskets of the second half, jumping ahead to a 47-40 lead in under a minute and a half.

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari yells at an official during the Kentucky vs. Arkansas mens basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Livingston would score Kentucky’s first points of the half with a 3-pointer, but an Arkansas 3-pointer followed by a fastbreak layup extended the Razorback lead to nine points.

Try as they might, anytime the Wildcats managed to cut into the lead the Razorbacks would extend it all over again, leading by seven with under 10 minutes left to play.

With the score at 64-57 in favor of Arkansas with 9:40 left on the clock, both teams were shooting 50% or better from the field, with the Razorbacks connecting on 61% of their shots up to that point.

Arkansas extended its lead to 10 points (68-58) with under eight minutes left to play after a nearly three-minute Wildcat scoring drought. The stretch saw Kentucky’s shooting percentage fall to 46% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc while the Razorbacks remained at 60% from the field.

Wallace was able to end the scoring drought with a mid-range jumper with 6:18 left in the game, but not before the Razorbacks extended their lead to 14 points, the largest of the game up to that point.

Arkansas would then extend that largest lead with 4:02 left in the game, leading by 16 with the score at 78-62.

With the final whistle putting the final nail in the coffin for Kentucky, the Wildcats once again found themselves missing out on a vital resume-building opportunity.

Wallace led the Wildcats and all scorers with 24 points, followed by Livingston (13), Toppin (11) and Reeves (11). Tshiebwe was once again noticeably absent for Kentucky, scoring just seven points with seven rebounds.

On the other side of the ball, Council IV led Arkansas with 20 points.

Kentucky will look to rebound from the streak-snapping loss on Saturday, Feb. 11, when it rematches the Georgia Bulldogs inside Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. Tipoff against the Bulldogs is scheduled for noon EST and will air live on ESPN.