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Arkansas at Kentucky -- Open Game Thread

This is the official Open Game Thread for Arkansas at Kentucky.

So the time has come at last for John Pelphrey to gird his loins in battle against his alma mater.  This is a huge game for Kentucky's hopes to attain at-large consideration for an NCAA tournament  berth.  It is alsobig game for Arkansas, for if the Hogs lose this one, they have lost three of their last four, and they can't be completely sanguine about their NCAA credentials under such an eventuality.

Arkansas is coming to Rupp Arena after blitzing LSU at home earlier this week.  The Cats are riding a perfect SEC home record and coming off a difficult victory over Georgia on Tuesday.  Both teams are reasonably healthy and should be ready to go.  The arrival of the Razorbacks with Pelphrey at the helm will surely result in a complete sellout with 24,000+ excited Kentucky fans ready to cheer on the Cats.

Of the two teams, the Cats have the most to lose.  If Arkansas winds up the victor, it would take a road victory over Tennessee to erase the damage to the Wildcats' chances at an at-large tournament invitation.  Arkansas, on the other hand, could easily afford to drop this game as long as it finishes strong, but the Hogs still have to travel to Tuscaloosa to face the Tide and to Oxford to face the Ole Miss Rebels, as well as having to host the powerful Vanderbilt Commodores at home.  Next to Alabama, this looks like the most winnable game of that lot, and it isn't inconceivable that Arkansas could drop three of its remaining five games.  So the Hogs will be highly motivated coming into Rupp Arena, as they they need to find a way to win at least three of their next five games to avoid limping into the SEC tournament, and possibly finding a way into the NIT if things go really south.

Keys to the game:

  1. Ballhandling -- Arkansas depends on turnovers for both offensive and defensive efficiency.  Deny them that, and UK helps its cause.
  2. Good start -- Good starts seem critical to Kentucky's success
  3. Perimeter shooting -- We can expect to see some zone out of Arkansas, and double teams on Patterson.  We need to hit the jumper.
  4. Take it to the rack --  Arkansas is a good shot-blocking team, but like UK, they are foul prone.  The Cats need to get to the line.
  5. Rebounding -- Arkansas is a much better rebounding team than Kentucky.  We must find a way to keep them from killing us on the glass.

The Cats have won two straight and things are looking up again, but UK needs this victory very badly to help their RPI.  The Hogs should be favored to win this game, and it will take UK's best effort to come out on top, even in Rupp Arena.

Leave your comments below if you have them.