Arkansas makes it two road wins in a row against Kentucky, 88-73
By Otis Kirk
Arkansas has struggled much of the season on the road, but not on Tuesday as they took an 88-73 win over Kentucky in Rupp Arena. ‘
It was Arkansas’ fifth SEC win in a row, including the second on the road. The Hogs held a narrow 41-40 lead at intermission, but pulled away in the final 20 minutes. Eric Musselman was pleased with the team’s defense.
“I thought defensively that we got much better in the second half,” Musselman said. “Offensively it’s a team that’s gaining more confidence. We did a really, really good job moving the basketball tonight and kind of shifting the defense.
“But defensively, our interior defense was really good. I thought we did a good job on 34, Oscar Tshiebwe. I thought both Mitchells gave us great physicality inside. And then our guard play to start the second half, with Anthony Black, his steals were extremely important.”
In addition to the defense, Musselman was pleased the Hogs were able to turn the Wildcats over which led to points. Arkansas forced 15 turnovers while only committing 11. The Hogs scored 23 points off those turnovers.
“Obviously we have not been turning people over as much as we would like,” Musselman said. “But tonight that changed.
Kentucky’s done a great job of playing with pace and getting out and scoring on the break, and tonight I thought it was our best transition [defense] that we’ve had all year.”
The Razorbacks shot 63 percent from the field and 44 from behind the 3-point line. The Hogs made 20 of 24 free throws. Arkansas broke a road losing skid on Saturday when they defeated South Carolina, but the win over Kentucky was very impressive.
“We’re playing really good basketball at the right time,” Musselman said. “I think we’re a team that continue to improve. I’ve seen some great growth defensively the last two games. Some crucial stops at crucial moments in the game.
“So just really, really proud of how the team has continued to evolve and continued to improve.”
True freshman Jordan Walsh once again came up big off the bench for the Razorbacks. It was a role that Trevon Brazile was filling prior to his injury. Walsh had 13 points and a rebound.
“I like we could still change lineups based on opponents, but certainly the last three games, Jordan’s done a fabulous job for us coming off the bench and giving us defensive energy,” Musselman said. “He’s done a good job the prior game of rebounding the ball. I thought tonight he did a really good job of cutting without the basketball.”
The Arkansas lead reached 16, 78-62, with 4:02 remaining in the game.
“Just a great, great win for us,” Musselman said. “I’m really proud of the team for leading for 33 minutes. That’s really hard to do on the road, and with a crowd like they had tonight.”
Ricky Council IV led Arkansas with 20 points, three rebounds and four assists. Anthony Black added 19 points, four rebounds, five assists, one block and five steals. Davonte “Devo” Davis had 15 points, three rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Makhel Mitchell finished with 15 points, four rebounds and five blocks. Makhi Mitchell also contributed four points, nine rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Kentucky was topped by Cason Wallace with 24 points, three rebounds, five assists, two blocks and three steals. Chris Livingston was next with 13 points while Antonio Reeves and Jacob Toppin 11 each. Tshiebwe was held to seven points and seven rebounds.
Arkansas (17-7, 6-5) will now return home to host Mississippi State on Saturday at 5 p.m. on ESPNU. Kentucky falls to 16-8, 7-4 on the season. Mississippi State (15-8, 3-7) will try to snap Arkansas’ winning streak.