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Kentucky edges Arkansas: 4 takeaways and postgame talk

The Wildcats nearly dug themselves too big of a hole, but they managed to claw their way out.

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

For a late tip-off on a Tuesday night, Rupp Arena’s crowd was slightly more full than usual.

However, the Kentucky Wildcats nearly fell short of holding up their end of the bargain. In a home matchup with the struggling Arkansas Razorbacks, PJ Washington picked up two early fouls and the Wildcats saw their offensive flow stalled to trail 39-28 at halftime.

In the second half, however, Kentucky rode the coattails of defensive execution to erase a 15-point deficit in their comeback victory over Arkansas, 70-66.

Kentucky Claws Back

Without starting center Reid Travis (knee) and then PJ Washington (two first half fouls), Kentucky was an offensive mess early on. The Wildcats had 12 turnovers in the first half and couldn’t find their identity with the team’s star on the bench.

However, Kentucky clawed back with grit and intensity on defense while Tyler Herro carried the team on offense. They began playing as a team and gave it their all.

The process wasn’t pretty, but the outcome was sufficient as the Wildcats move on to the weekend with the win.

Herro Shows Up

While the Wildcats don’t have much to take away from Tuesday’s outing against the Razorbacks, Tyler Herro certainly came to play. After the freshman scored 12 first half points, head coach John Calipari told SEC Network’s Laura Rutledge that Herro had strained his ankle.

Despite the reported injury, Herro came out surging in the second half. He scored eight of Kentucky’s first 16 points, including two shots from behind the arc.

Herro finished with 29 points on 9-10 shooting in the contest, playing by far his best game as a Wildcat.

Without Herro, this game would have been a blowout in favor of the visitors. He was the pulse of the Bluegrass on Tuesday night.

Richards Cashes In

With Reid Travis sidelined, the opportunity for one (or both) of EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards emerged to succeed as the team’s center. After Montgomery was plagued by early foul trouble, Richards stepped in efficiently to control the painted area.

The sophomore finished Tuesday’s game with seven points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. He did have some bad turnovers, but he ultimately made a positive impact for the Cats.

While Travis being out puts a dent in Kentucky’s ability to dominate inside, Richards’ growth could ultimately benefit the Wildcats as postseason play nears.

Three-Point Misery

The trend of opposing players randomly shooting the lights out at Rupp Arena had temporarily been put on hold. However, on Tuesday, Arkansas brought back the demons by shooting 10-20 as a team. Some of those were contested, but far too many were open looks that got the Hogs in rhythm and shooting lights out into the second half.

Kentucky’s attention to detail was sloppy, but there were also a few tough shots that you simply tip your cap to. This weekend, though, Kentucky will need to be much more attentive to guarding the three on the road. It will be a long day in Knoxville if Kentucky allows to Vols to shoot like this.

On Saturday, Kentucky (24-4) will make the trip down to Knoxville for their rematch with the Tennessee Volunteers (24-3). Tip-off for the top-ten matchup is set for 2 pm EST.