FAYETTEVILLE – Kentucky Hot Browns all round for these Razorbacks.
Kentucky’s delicacy of roast turkey on bread smothered in mornay sauce seems appropriate for Arkansas’ Razorbacks basking in the delicious glow of breaking a 7-year, 8-game SEC losing streak to Kentucky’s Wildcats.
Tuesday night at the Wildcats’ Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. the Razorbacks prevailed, 81-80. Jalen Tate’s two free throws upon fouled rebounding teammate Devo Davis’ miss with 4.3 seconds left surpassed Kentucky’s 80-79 lead. Davis, the freshman from Jacksonville whose given first name is Davonte but called Devo by all his teammates and coaches, sealed the deal. Davis intercepted Kentucky’s first – and last- pass after inbounding and broke away where no Wildcat could foul him when time expired.
Never mind that while advancing to 15-5 overall/7-4 in the SEC the Razorbacks barely stepped over what some deem a Kentucky carcass.
Coach John Calipari’s Wildcats wallow an ignominious 5-13 overall/ 4-7 in the SEC.
Yeah, but they’re still Kentucky. Loaded with McDonald’s High School All-Americans and this game finishing better than they had in what seemed ages to Calipari as the Wildcats have been squandering large second half leads rather than fighting from behind like Tuesday.
““That’s the best we’ve finished a game, so I can’t be too upset,” Calipari said.
Speaking of ages, the Wildcats are Kentucky’s team for the ages. From Adolph Rupp, 876 victories, four national championships and 27 SEC championships, through national championships under Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and Calipari the Wildcats reign as the SEC’s basketball goal standard like Alabama traditionally dominates SEC football.
Sure, other SEC schools have had their days in both sports, but none so many as the Cats on the hardwood or the Tide on the gridiron.
SEC coaches can pretend they prepare for Kentucky like any other SEC teams but they know it’s a sham. Going to Rupp isn’t like going anywhere else nor is their home arena otherwise quite matching the fevered pitch of Kentucky coming to town.
“I mean it’s huge” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said postgame Tuesday. “Everybody in the basketball world that’s a basketball fan. I mean, last night (Monday) after our dinner when the players all went up to their rooms, the staff sat around and we did a little University of Kentucky trivia on their coaches and Adolph Rupp and how many years he coached, and how many years Joe B. Hall coached here, and Rupp’s Runts and Pat Riley played center.”
It became a group effort.
“All of us kind of chimed in,” Musselman said. “We were looking at Wikipedia. Obviously there’s so much history in this building that it does mean something.”
After Wednesday’s off day to celebrate comes another big one, Saturday’s 3 p.m. SEC rematch at nationally No. 10 Missouri whose 81-68 victory back on Jan. 2 marks Arkansas’ lone loss at Walton Arena in its 13 home games so far this season.
But coming home from Lexington, the Razorbacks flew back soaring higher than their plane.
“It’s awesome,” Musselman said postgame in Lexington. “Probably nobody’s happier – I’m going to end with this – than my wife. She gets a happy husband coming home until we go to Missouri.”