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Kentucky falls at Arkansas: 4 things to know and postgame banter

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A monster game from Oscar Tshibwe was not enough for the Cats to win this top 25 battle.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The winning streak is over for the Kentucky Wildcats at Bud Walton Arena, as Arkansas snapped a three-game home losing streak to the Cats with a 75-73 win on Saturday in Fayetteville.

The loss moves No. 6-ranked Kentucky two games back of Auburn in the SEC standings with two games remaining in the regular season.

Oscar Tshiebwe led the Wildcats with 30 points and 18 rebounds, Keion Brooks and Sahvir Wheeler each added 14.

Kellan Grady was held to just three points on 1-of-3 shooting while battling foul trouble. That can’t happen if this team is going to make a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Kentucky, 23-6 (12-4) is back in action on Tuesday night against Ole Miss in the final home game of the season. The Wildcats close the regular season next Saturday at Florida.

Return of TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler

After missing the last two games, the guard tandem of TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler returned to action in a key SEC road game in Fayetteville. UK coach John Calipari rolled out the same lineup for the third straight game - Davion Mintz, Kellan Grady, Jacob Toppin, Keion Brooks, Oscar Tshiebwe with Washington and Wheeler both checking in at the 16:52 mark of the first half with Arkansas out to a quick 7-2 lead.

Wheeler, wearing a brace on his wrist, was rusty early, making two quick turnovers while Washington, the team’s second leading scorer, did not score until the 3:28 mark after his layup attempt was blocked and ruled good on a goal-tending call.

After missing the last two games against LSU and Alabama, both players struggled early to get into the flow of the offense as Kentucky was 0-for-8 from three point range in the first half.

Wheeler shook off the rust in the second half and was a difference-maker with a pair of three-pointers to finish with 14 points and two assists.

Another Horrible Start

Kentucky started the game 1-for-7 from the field and made three quick turnovers as Arkansas went on a 12-0 run after a Tshiebwe basket opened the game as the Wildcats trailed 12-2 after the game’s opening five minutes.

The Razorbacks would ultimately go on a 15-0 run as the Wildcats trailed by as many as 13 points before cutting the lead to 34-28 at halftime on the heels of two free throws and a layup by Wheeler to close the half.

Digging an early hole has been an unfortunate pattern for the Cats who too often get down early and suffer from extended scoring droughts.

Latest Comeback Falls Short

For the third straight game, Kentucky erased a double-digit first half deficit by going 5-for-8 from the field to open the second half as Brook converted a layup off an Arkansas turnover to give Kentucky a 41-40 with 14:54 remaining. The Wildcats came out of the locker room and turned up the defense, pushing the ball up the court to get easy baskets to silence a rowdy crowd at Bud Walton Arena.

Sadly, Kentucky was unable to close the deal in this one after some costly turnovers and poor shot selection down the stretch.

Another Big Game with Oscar’s Headband

Making another strong case for National Player of Year, Tshiebwe and his new headband were spectacular against Arkansas and single-handedly kept the Wildcats in the game, going for a double-double in the first half with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

One of the most popular Wildcats in recent memory, the West Virginia transfer broke out his new headband look in the win against LSU and scored Kentucky’s first eight points and was a load on both ends of the floor in front of national TV audience on CBS.

Through games on Feb. 23, Oscar Tshiebwe leads the country in rebounding (15.3), offensive rebounds per game (5.3), offensive rebounding percentage (.201) and defensive rebound percentage (.351). He is second in the country with 22 double-doubles.

Tshiebwe entered the game with 427 rebounds, already the best single-season rebounding season since 1954-55. He is currently in the top three all-time as he chases Bill Spivey who had 567 rebounds during the 1950-51 season.

While it’s a tough pill to swallow today, at least Tshiebwe increased his odds of winning National Player of the Year.