COLUMN: A tale of two halves: Arkansas loss illustrates Kentucky’s inconsistency


Jack Weaver

during the Kentucky vs. Arkansas mens basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Samantha Money, Assistant Sports Editor

Kentucky mens basketball suffered another home SEC loss against the Arkansas Razorbacks 88-73 on Tuesday, moving the Cats to 16-8 overall and 7-4 in conference play.

Not only does this matchup mark the third time in a row that Kentucky has lost its contest with the Razorbacks, but it also means that half of the Wildcats’ SEC losses have come at home in Rupp Arena this season.

It’s frustrating to see the inconsistency from this team, especially when Kentucky’s biggest win of the season came on the road against Tennessee in an unwelcoming Volunteer territory.

The most significant thing to take away from this Arkansas loss is how the two halves illustrated the fluctuating nature of Kentucky’s consistency on the court.

In the first half, Kentucky showed a promising effort, battling against a team that stepped on the court hot and trailing by just a point at halftime.

Yet, after fifteen minutes of what one would think would be time for the Wildcats to build up more energy and hunger for the win, Kentucky stepped back onto the court seemingly with none of that vigor it possessed in the first half.

Within minutes, Kentucky’s defense watched on as the Razorbacks notched steal after steal over the Cats and went on to shoot 72% (18-25) in the second half alone.

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)

In total, Arkansas shot 62.7% from the field, marking the first game since 2007 where Kentucky has allowed an opponent to shoot at least 60%.

In other words, Big Blue Nation has not seen a performance yield such little defensive success from Kentucky basketball in sixteen years.

With Tennessee mentioned earlier, it is evident that the Wildcats have the talent within them and the drive to fight in these games, but there has to be some ongoing struggle that continues to drastically weaken the team.

Whether it’s a lack of communication on the court or difficulty finding a balance with rotation, Kentucky cannot seem to get past just one or two Wildcats shining on the court while the others are unsuccessful in joining the hot streak.

Take the Georgia game, for example, when Oscar Tshiebwe put up 37 points and 24 rebounds and had all of Big Blue Nation celebrating that the “Big O” performance everyone was waiting for was back.

While Tschiebwe has been a contributing player in the games since, he has yet to reach half of those points he put up against the Bulldogs.

Freshman duo Chirs Livingston and Cason Wallace have also been crucial players for this team, with Wallace having an individually victorious game against Arkansas, notching 24 points, five assists and five turnovers while Livingston added 13 points and five rebounds.

The freshman pulled their weight against the Razorbacks, but the lack of offensive help from the veterans will almost always never be enough to take the win in the end.

This team is still searching for the balance that allows them to feed off of each other’s fire on the court and while games such as Georgia and Tennessee might trick fans into thinking that Kentucky has figured it out, there is still much work that needs to be done.

The Cats have surprisingly yielded positive results on the road, which the team will hope to continue during its next two matchups against Georgia on Saturday, Feb. 11, and Mississippi State on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Two road wins will be crucial in helping Kentucky prepare for its rematch against a revenge-seeking No. 6 Tennessee at home in Rupp Arena on Saturday, Feb. 18.