Kentucky mens basketball looks to split season series over Arkansas in final regular season game


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) gestures at guard Kareem Watkins (25) during introductions before the Kentucky vs. Auburn mens basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 86-54. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Ayden Parece, Reporter

After all but securing a spot in the NCAA tournament on the back of a four-game SEC win streak, Kentucky mens basketball suffered a 68-66 loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores at home on Wednesday.

Kentucky was without rotational point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who had undergone a minor procedure in hopes of mending the injury that had sidelined him in a crucial stretch for Kentucky. 

Heading into Fayetteville, the Wildcats will be without Wheeler for the matchup against Arkansas as well. To make matters worse, point guard Cason Wallace would also be ruled out of the game after suffering a lower leg injury in the loss to Vandy.

The matchup will be Kentucky and Arkansas’ second matchup against each other this year after the Razorbacks defeated the Wildcats in Lexington.

With that in mind, along with its most recent crucial home loss to Vanderbilt, Kentucky takes the court hoping to earn its first win against Arkansas this season for its sixth quadrant-1 win of the season.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Antonio Reeves (12) holds the ball during the Kentucky vs. Florida mens basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 72-67. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

The Wildcats currently stand at 20-10 overall with an 11-6 conference record, enough to put them fourth in the SEC behind Alabama, Texas A&M and Tennessee. Arkansas is currently 19-11 overall and 8-9 in conference play, putting it at ninth in the SEC. 

The Wildcats are just one game ahead of both Missouri and Vanderbilt, so a win at the end of the season, especially one of this caliber, will surely benefit the Wildcats’ SEC tournament seeding. 

When looking at past matchups between Kentucky and Arkansas, the Wildcats lead the series 33-14 over the Razorbacks.

In terms of numbers, Kentucky is led by Oscar Tshiebwe in points, rebounds and blocks, with Tshiebwe averaging 16.5 points, 13.1 rebounds and one block per game, as well as 1.6 assists and steals per game while shooting 56.8% from the floor. 

Antonio Reeves stands as Kentucky’s next highest scorer, averaging 13.4 points per game while shooting 41.6% from the floor and 40.8% from beyond the arc.

Additionally, Wallace had been averaging 11.7 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 44.6% from the floor and 35.6% from the three-point line before going down with injury. Wallace also led the team in assists and steals per game with 4.2 assists and 1.9 steals.

Jacob Toppin also contributes a balanced 12 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. 

For Arkansas, the Razorbacks are led in scoring by Ricky Council IV, who averages 16.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 45.9% from the floor.

Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black support Council IV from the wing for Arkansas with Smith Jr. averaging 12.8 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while shooting 38.7% from the floor while Black averages 12.7 points and five rebounds while shooting 46.9% from the field. Black also leads the team in assists and steals with 4.2 assists and two steals per game.  

Both Arkansas and Kentucky struggled heavily with injuries throughout the season, though each team is playing seemingly their best basketball of the season down the stretch, despite Kentucky’s most recent loss to Vanderbilt.

On the cusp of the SEC tournament, the matchup will heavily influence résumés for SEC teams throughout the entire conference in a dire week of the season. 

Kentucky and Arkansas are set to tip off on Saturday, March 4, at 2 p.m. EST in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The game can be watched live on ESPN.