The Kentucky Wildcats will look to get back on track and back in the race for the SEC when they hit the road to take on the surging Arkansas Razorbacks tonight.
After a 6-7 start that was beginning to have head coach Mike Anderson trending towards the hot seat, the Hogs reeled off three straight wins in SEC play before a narrow 76-74 loss at LSU last Saturday. Arkansas has suffered several close defeats this season, including losses to Stanford, Wake Forest, Charleston and Dayton by an average of just 3.25 points.
With the trio of senior guard Anthlon Bell (17.1), senior forward Moses Kingsley (16.9) and junior wing Dusty Hannahs (16.0), Arkansas is one of five teams in the country and the only power five conference program with three players averaging 15+ points per game. The Razorbacks are No. 3 in the country in three-point field goal percentage at .447, sitting only behind No. 1 Oklahoma (.457) and No. 3 Kansas (.449).
Anderson's five-year tenure has seen Arkansas quietly become UK's biggest rival when it comes to SEC play and home-court success. Since 2011, the Hogs have posted a record of 75-9 inside Bud Walton Arena, marking the third-most home wins in the country during this span behind UK (79-4) and Ohio State (78-12). Over the last 30 SEC regular-season games dating back to 2013-14, Arkansas (22-8) and Kentucky (24-6) have the top two records in the league with the Razorbacks checking in at 22-8 and the Wildcats at 24-6.
This veteran-heavy squad (3 seniors and 2 juniors in starting lineup) is starting to gel and become a team capable of knocking anyone off in the SEC.
That's why UK will be on upset alert Thursday night as they've struggled mightily on the road this season. That's especially true when it comes to games played in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks won three straight at home vs. UK and four of six overall vs the Cats in regular-season matchups.
Combined with their 1-3 record in road games this season, this is a game the Cats must bring their A game in to get back on track and avoid a 3-3 start in SEC play. That would severely damage their ability to keep up with Texas A&M (6-0) and South Carolina (4-1) in league play.
Here is everything you'll need to watch and follow UK take on Arkansas.
Kentucky Wildcats (13-4, 3-2 in SEC) at Arkansas Razorbacks (9-8, 3-2 in SEC)
When: Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016
Location: Bud Walton Arena (19,200) in Fayetteville, Ark.
Game Time: 7 p.m. ET
Announcers: Joe Tessitore (PxP) and Sean Farnham (Analyst)
Rosters: AR Roster; Kentucky Roster
Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: UK Radio Network (Tom Leach, Mike Pratt)
Odds: Arkansas opened as 1.5-point favorite, but the line now has UK as a 2-point favorite, per Vegas Insider.
All-Time Record: UK leads 27-11
Last Meeting: UK won 78-63 in the 2015 SEC Championship.
John Calipari’s Record vs. Arkansas: 7-6
Mike Anderson’s Record vs. Kentucky: 4-4
Projected AU Starters
#4 G - Jabril Durham, 6-1, Sr.
#5 G - Anthlon Bell, 6-3, Sr.
#3 G - Dusty Hannahs, 6-3, Jr.
#0 F - -Miles Keaton, 6-7, Jr.
#12 F - Moses Kingsley, 6-10, Sr.
Projected UK Starters
#3 G - Tyler Ulis, 5-9, 160 lbs
#13 G - Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3, 202 lbs
#23 G - Jamal Murray, 6-4, 207 lbs
#22 F - Alex Poythress, 6-8, 230 lbs
#00 F - Marcus Lee, 6-9, 224 lbs
My Prediction: As has usually been the case, the Cats and Hogs battle fiercely for 40 minutes in a game that goes down to the wire. Coming off Saturday's embarrassing loss, UK comes out strong and jumps out to an early lead they build to double-digits in the second half.
But just as has been the case many times this season, the Cats let up on the gas pedal just enough for Arkansas to make a run and make the Cats sweat this one out. In the end, UK holds on for a narrow victory.
Final Score: Kentucky 79, Arkansas 75