FAYETTEVILLE — In a game full of emotion, drama, technical fouls, an ejection and extremely loud boos, the No. 23 Kentucky Wildcats (21-10, 12-6) left Bud Walton Arena with an 88-79 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks (19-12, 8-10) on Saturday in Fayetteville.
Despite being without two of its best guards — Sahvir Wheeler (ankle) and Cason Wallace (ankle) — Kentucky saw a big-time performance from Antonio Reeves, who scored a game-high 37 points on 12-of-17 shooting from the field. .
Arkansas didn’t help itself much, as it was 2-of-20 on layups and the Hogs shot just 35.7% from the field in the contest. The Razorbacks had another bad day at the free throw line, shooting 22-of-34 (64.7%) at the charity stripe.
Saturday’s game featured plenty of chippy scenarios, a pair of Wildcats players fouling out and Arkansas guard Davonte Davis being ejected before the first media timeout of the second half.
Here’s a recap of the Hogs’ loss to Kentucky, which resulted in them finishing below .500 in conference play on the season.
The first media timeout came due to a scuffle between Oscar Tshiebwe and Makhel Mitchell, who had been playing very physical in the paint up to that point. The officials went to the monitor with both coaches yelling and the game tied at 6-6.
Kentucky went on a 17-9 run out of that timeout, which Makhel Mitchell had to sit after due to his second personal foul being assessed. Tshiebwe, who also received a technical from the scuffle, took over in the paint, scoring 10 of those 17 points.
Back-to-back dunks from Ricky Council IV, including one that sparked the loudest crowd pop of the season at Bud Walton Arena, trimmed the Kentucky lead to 28-24 and forced John Calipari to call a timeout with 6:56 left in the first half.
Arkansas kept getting within striking distance, but Kentucky managed to go on the other end of the court and hit a bucket. Makhi Mitchell’s second foul of the game at the 3:00 mark sent Reeves to the free throw line and he hit both shots to extend the Wildcats’ lead to six.
Tshiebwe drew his second foul of the game on a Flagrant 1 at the 1:17 mark in the first half and it allowed Arkansas’ Kamani Johnson to hit a pair of free throws. A Smith jumper later, the Razorbacks trailed by two, but a Daimion Collins layup gave the Wildcats a 40-36 lead going into halftime.
Tensions grew high once again early in the second half, and Arkansas’ Davonte Davis was ejected from the game at the 18:15 mark after he drew two technicals for celebrating what he thought was a foul on Tshiebwe, but was actually a foul on him . The reaction when he found out the foul was on him was enough for the men in stripes to end Davis’ day.
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman called for a rare timeout at the 16:20 mark as Kentucky had extended its lead to 51-40 not even four minutes into the second half.
The Wildcats gained their largest lead of the game (12) on a tough layup from Reeves with 12:49 to play, but Arkansas cut it to a 55-45 deficit at the under-12 media timeout.
A quick 7-0 run by the Razorbacks made the Kentucky lead five points, but the Wildcats quickly extended it back to 10 with a Jacob Toppin three and an Adou Theiro dunk.
Smith stole a Kentucky pass and took it to the basket for a wide open dunk, but another Toppin three put the ‘Cats ahead 68-59 with 5:31 to play. Not long after, Tshiebwe drew his fifth foul of the game and went to the bench for the remainder of the contest to open the door for an Arkansas comeback.
Reeves continued to do his part to keep the Hogs away, as he hit a pull up jumper to give him 35 points and Kentucky 71-61 lead at the final media timeout of the game.
A three ball from Black made it an eight-point disadvantage for the Razorbacks with just under three minutes to play, but it wasn’t enough to spark an Arkansas run.
Kentucky knocked down nine free throws in the final two and a half minutes of the game, and a pair of threes from Smith and a dunk from Walsh gave the few remaining Arkansas fans a little bit to cheer for before the final buzzer sounded and the Hogs fell by nine points.
Up next, the Razorbacks will await their seed in next week’s SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Arkansas’ game will take place at some point Thursday and it will either play in the 8/9-seed matchup (noon CT) or the 7/10-seed matchup (6 pm CT).