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Kentucky matches a season high in turnovers, and Arkansas defeats the Wildcats handily in Fayetteville.
Ugh. I’d hate to say that I didn’t see this one coming, but I’ve seen it coming for weeks. Having watched the Arkansas Razorbacks a few times, I knew their strengths played right into our weaknesses. Kentucky is a very shaky ballhandling team (as Kentucky teams go), and the Razorbacks are very good at getting the ball away from the other team. When the game is called loose, like this one was, it makes it really tough on any opponent. Remember, Florida also lost here.
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Congratulations to the Arkansas Razorbacks. We did a lot of complaining in the game threads, but the time for that is past. Let’s congratulate today’s foe on a game well played. Arkansas got the game going exactly the way they wanted, and did what they have done all year – won at home. Well done, Razorbacks. Noble victory.
What went wrong in this game? Honestly, this is the easiest postmortem I’ve ever had to do in that regard. I said in the pregame UK could not turn the ball over, and had to take advantage of the Hawg’s weak offensive rebounding.
Instead, the exact opposite happened. Kentucky turned the ball over 19 times, allowed themselves to not just lose the offensive rebounding battle, but actually get pounded into the Fayetteville hardwood. The Razorbacks got 26 more shots on goal than Kentucky did. You don’t have to shoot very well to win a game like that.
I could point fingers everywhere, but I’m not in the mood. I griped enough about play in the game thread, and I’m not going to rehash all that. Here are a few observations, though.
Jarrod Polson really does a lot of good things out there. The good thing is that he will be around for one more year, and hopefully, a lot of the younger guys will pick up his habits and his determination. I loved his toughness today, and wish it was more contagious.
Alex Poythress had an awful game. I guess that’s to be expected after a couple of really good games. He was ballwatching all day, refused to move when the ball was not in his hands, and just never got into rebounding position.
Ryan Harrow has got to get tougher. It’s never too late, but I’m not sure it’s in him.
Willie Cauley-Stein looked frustrated the whole game, and gave up after they kept grabbing him and it didn’t get called. That’s just youth and inexperience. You have to fight through that stuff and not hang your head. WCS was okay, but several times he just gave up.
Honestly, Archie Goodwin almost had a good game. If it weren’t for the vast array of defensive breakdowns, maybe I could offer him a bit of praise.
Kyle Wiltjer was almost not there. He made a shot or two, but that’s all. He was like a role player rather than a 5-star player.
Julius Mays didn’t do anything well. He lost his man on defense, he didn’t shoot it well, and … well, what can you say?
I thought Jon Hood did okay. He had four rebounds and played some decent defense.
For those that are wondering, yes, this will knock us out of the NCAA’s we’d just won our way back into. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that UK still has opportunities to excel and turn it around. Beating an improving Georgia squad in Athens would seem to be critical to that effort, and even if the Wildcats cannot beat Florida, in the season finale, they should have an opportunity in the SEC tournament to win their way back in.
Bottom line: This was a loss we could ill-afford, but here we are. The only thing left to do is win. If we can’t do that, I won’t be the least bit concerned if we wind up in the NIT. Honestly, at this point, I think that’s right where we belong this year. I have to call it as I see it.
But if we defeat Florida and Georgia, I will feel differently.