Start Time: 9 p.m. EST on Feb. 20, 2018
Location: Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington or online at UKAthletics.com.
Odds: Arkansas opened as a 5-point favorite. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives Kentucky a 35% chance to win this matchup. Kenpom projected Arkansas to be a 3.5-point favorite and gives them a 62-percent chance of winning.
Prediction: Nothing would make me happier than seeing the Wildcats pull off two straight victories over respective teams. And though this team is certainly talented enough to do so, I believe they are a few more games away from taking their production over a 40-minute game to the next level. Unfortunately, I have to go with the home team on this one.
Arkansas 81, Kentucky 72
The Kentucky Wildcats snapped their 4-game losing skid on Saturday with a “team” win over Alabama. Now, they’ll face a tough road matchup with a rising Arkansas team.
The Cats had five players in double figures, led by PJ Washington with 16. They out-rebounded the Tide 44-27 and instead of getting 3-point happy, they constantly attacked the paint and overpowered Alabama’s 3-guard lineup.
On Tuesday, they’ll travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks who are currently on a 4-game winning streak, with their latest victory being a blowout at home over #21 Texas A&M.
Rest assured, Arkansas will be both comfortable and confident when Kentucky comes to town. However, they shouldn’t underestimate the Wildcats.
Kentucky’s defense has (for the most part) been great the past few weeks. It’s their offense that has really struggled. But Saturday afternoon, it all seemed to fall right into place.
Though Washington had five turnovers, he managed to score in double figures for the second straight game. His offensive production off the bench was key for the Cats.
Kevin Knox was held scoreless in the first half but still managed to net 13 points. Quade Green hit big momentum shots that led to his 12 points on 5-6 shooting.
Jarred Vanderbilt (11) and Nick Richards (10) added an inside presence that was simply too much for Alabama.
Arkansas will still present a tough test, though, as they racked up 94 points on A&M Saturday. Freshman center Daniel Gafford scored 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting to lead Arkansas. It was the fifth straight game in double figures for Gafford, who is shooting 70.7 percent (29 of 41) since the 80-66 loss to Texas A&M on Jan. 30.
Senior guard Daryl Macon finished with 20 points for an Arkansas team that’s won seven of its last nine. It was the eighth time in the last nine games Macon has scored 20 or more.
Arkansas actually features seven seniors, making them one of, if not the most experienced team in college basketball. Senior guard Jaylen Barford leads the team in scoring at 18.6 points per game. Macon is second with 17 points per contest to go with a team-high 4.0 assists per outing.
Kentucky’s defense will need to be stellar once again, along with their offense being mistake-free to pull off the upset.