Coming off arguably their best performance of the year against Auburn, the Cats came out atrocious in this one.
Turnovers were the story of the first half as the Cats coughed it up 10 times in the first ten minutes allowing Arkansas to take an early 20-12 lead.
Thankfully, Tyler Herro came ready to play as he was keeping the Cats in it, going for 12 points in the half.
A big jumper by Herro made it 26-21, but it was Arkansas that ran off the next six points to push the lead back to 32-21.
Kentucky failed to close out the half strong and they found themselves headed to the locker room trailing 39-28.
After the break, Arkansas came out strong yet again as they quickly pushed the lead to 15, 45-30.
Then, here came the Cats.
A breakaway dunk by Tyler Herro with 16:33 left cut the lead to 45-36 forcing Arkansas to call a timeout.
The energy the Cats had on the defensive end of the floor was tremendous all half and that transitioned into excellent offense.
Kentucky continued to battle back and with 8:13 remaining, PJ Washington drilled the jumper to tie it up at 51.
A huge offensive rebound by Nick Richards led to the open three by Herro giving the Cats the lead 54-51.
Each team battled the rest of the way, but in the end, Herro and Immanuel Quickley knocked down four huge free throws to ice it as Kentucky made the comeback and win it 70-66.
Thoughts on the game
Herro’s best game as a Wildcat
The first half was about as ugly as it could get for the Cats, but the one bright spot was Herro as he was keeping the Cats in it the entire half.
At the start of the second half, it was reported that Herro had a hurt ankle and was questionable to return.
He returned and had a monstrous game as he finished 9/10 from the field and 5/6 from three, totaling 29 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block. He was also 6/6 from the foul line.
Tyler Herro stepback jumper. pic.twitter.com/sTQCr0qltY— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 27, 2019
Tyler Herro with the poke away from behind and ends it with the slam. Big time play. pic.twitter.com/GWBWecSvbu— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 27, 2019
This team needed Herro or they wouldn’t have left Rupp Arena with the victory. He stepped up in a huge way on both ends of the floor.
Johnson had a big second half
Like the rest of the team (besides Herro), the first half was not a good one for Johnson as he was 1-7 with 4 points. That can’t happen for this team to be successful.
However, in the second half he stepped up big time on his way to finishing with 13 points, six rebounds, three assists, and a block.
Tough bucket in the lane by Keldon Johnson. pic.twitter.com/hla3uqDuN0— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 27, 2019
In the second half, Johnson made it a point to get into the lane and get to the rim, which is what he is best at and it paid off as he was a big factor in the comeback.
If he can learn to play like this for a full 40-minute game, Kentucky becomes an even stronger title contender. And Kentucky is going to need a complete game from him to have any chance of winning at Tennessee this weekend.
PJ comes back to Earth
After about a two-month stretch where it seemed like Washington couldn’t be stopped, he was slowed down for the most part in this one.
He has been averaging over 20 points a game over the last six-plus weeks, but he was held to just nine in this one. However, he rebounded the ball well and played very solid defense as he had six rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.
PJ Washington using that 7'3 wingspan for the steal and slam. pic.twitter.com/azz6gd43Z9— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 27, 2019
He also hit a big shot late to tie the game at 51-all.
PJ Washington jump hook ties the game. pic.twitter.com/HLWZSuvOW4— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 27, 2019
If PJ was going to have an off night, I am glad it came in this one and not Saturday when the Cats have their rematch with Tennessee. He needs another monster game for the Wildcats to come out of Knoxville with a win.
Richards stepped up without Travis
Against Auburn, it was EJ Montgomery that stepped up in the absence of Reid Travis. But this time out, it was Richards.
Richards played solid defense and came up with 15 rebounds to go along with seven points and three blocks. His first half left a lot to be desired, but his play in the second half helped the Wildcats rally from down 15.
Calipari on Nick Richards: "First half, he wasn't very good. Matter of fact, he wanted out and I said, 'You're not coming out. Figure it out.' Second half, he was good." Finished with 7 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks in 25 minutes.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) February 27, 2019
Richards had moments where he should’ve come up with a ball, not to mention some brutal turnovers, but he still managed to make an overall positive impact, and it was a good showing for the sophomore and a much-needed one for this team.
But this team badly misses Travis
This was the second game with Travis and his absence was a lot more prominent in this one.
Late in the game, the Cats had a great chance to end it, but Gafford came up with four offensive rebounds for the Razorbacks and got the bucket to keep Arkansas alive. Speaking of, Gafford finished with six offensive boards compared to nine for Kentucky as a team.
I have to believe that in that situation, Travis is going to use his strength to move Gafford out of the way and come up with that board.
Even though that wasn’t the only time that it was evident that Travis was missed, it was definitely the biggest moment.
The Cats will now get ready to make the trip to Knoxville for their rematch with the Tennessee Volunteers. That game will tip-off at 2:00 pm EST on CBS.
Now, here are the postgame notes and milestones, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is now 24-4 overall and 13-2 in the Southeastern Conference, remaining in a tie for first place. UK has won 14 of its last 15 games.
- Arkansas is 14-14, 5-10 in league play.
- Kentucky leads the series 32-11 and has won seven in a row.
- UK leads 15-3 in games played in Lexington.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats begin a two-game road trip Saturday at Tennessee. Game time is 2 p.m. and it will be televised on CBS.
In the First Half
- Kentucky started the combination of Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington and EJ Montgomery for the second straight game.
- Kentucky jumped out to a 10-5 lead, but the Wildcats went almost seven minutes without a basket as Arkansas spurted to a 20-12 advantage.
- The Razorbacks stretched the lead to 12 on two occasions, 35-23 and 37-25.
- Arkansas took a 39-28 lead into intermission.
- It is UK’s largest halftime deficit since trailing Duke by 17 points in the season opener.
- The 12 turnovers are UK’s second most in a half this season (14 in the first half vs. Southern Illinois). Arkansas capitalized with a 14-2 advantage in points off turnovers.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky opened with the original starting lineup.
- Arkansas began the second half with a pair of 3-pointers for its biggest lead at 45-30.
- Arkansas’ first four made shots in the second half were all 3-pointers. The Razorbacks missed their first seven two-point attempts of the half, making their first two-point basket with 6:18 remaining.
- Kentucky tied at 51 with 8:10 to play on a jump hook by Washington.
- Herro put the Cats back ahead on a 3-pointer with 7:07 remaining, capping a 24-6 run to make it 54-51.
- An Arkansas 3-pointer by Mason Jones cut the lead to 66-65 with nine seconds left.
- Herro made two free throws with 5.4 seconds left to make it 68-65.
- Arkansas’ Jalen Harris made the first of two free throws with 3.2 seconds left to make it 68-66.
- Immanuel Quickley made two free throws with 1.3 seconds left for final score of 70-66.
- The rally from 15 points down is UK’s biggest comeback of the season.
- The last time UK overcame a 15-point deficit for a victory was Jan. 27, 2018 at West Virginia when the Wildcats rallied from 17 down.
- Arkansas shot 37.7 percent from the field. UK is 178-15 (.922) under Calipari when keeping the opponent at 40 percent or less, including 13-0 this season.
- Kentucky shot 50 percent from the field today, the Wildcats’ 12th game this season of at least 50 percent.
- Kentucky won the rebounding 40-27 and points in the paint 24-22.
- UK is now 21-2 this season when winning/tying the rebounding and 21-3 when prevailing in the paint.
- After 12 turnovers in the first half, UK had only three miscues in the second half.
- Kentucky has won 14 of its last 15 games. During that 15-game span, UK has …
- Limited the opponents to 38 percent from the field.
- Limited the opponents to 32.5 percent from 3-point range.
- Limited the opponents to 60.5 points per game.
- Tyler Herro scored a career-high 29 points, featuring a career-best 5 of 6 on 3-pointers. He also chipped in four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
- UK is 15-0 this season when he scores at least 15.
- UK is 9-0 this season when he makes at least three 3-pointers.
- Keldon Johnson had 13 points, his 21st game this season in double figures.
- Nick Richards scored seven points, hauled down 15 rebounds and blocked three shots.
- It is his second double-figure rebounding game of the season and third of his career.
- UK is 12-0 this season when Richards scores at least four points.
- Calipari is now 299-68 at UK.
- Calipari has a 744-208 all-time on-court record.
- UK is 242-40 vs. AP unranked competition under Calipari.