Playing the Arkansas Razorbacks inside Bud Walton Arena was going to be a challenging game no matter what team John Calipari put on the court.
But missing your two primary ball-handlers in Sahvir Wheeler and Cason Wallace made the Saturday afternoon match-up seem dire to say the least for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Going into one of the most hostile environments in the SEC without a point guard is obviously a recipe for disaster.
Despite being undermanned Kentucky came out swinging from the opening tip, somewhat literally.
Oscar Tshiebwe was involved in an early scuffle that almost sent him to the locker room early. Fortunately for the Cats he wasn’t ejected and proceeded to impose his will on the Razorbacks for the majority of the first half.
After a gritty performance, UK would take a 40-36 lead into the break with Antonio Reeves and Oscar Tshiebwe combining for 27 points.
Kentucky was 15-0 when leading at the half this season.
Whatever John Calipari said in the locker room — it worked.
Antonio Reeves and the Cats came out balling in the second half securing a double-digit lead.
By the 16:20 mark Reeves had totaled a jaw-dropping 26 points in a game where his team needed everything he could give offensively.
Kentucky would scrape and claw to maintain that lead. Oscar Tshiebwe fouled out with just under five minutes to play and UK holding onto a 69-61 lead.
More clutch play from Jacob Toppin and Antonio Reeves helped the Cats close this one out and come away with an 88-79 victory! The win gives Kentucky the No. 3 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament, so they’ll get the double-bye for some extra rest before playing late Friday night.
Now, here is how Twitter reacted today!
Bud Walton Arena pic.twitter.com/RzkCxqfdDQ— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 4, 2023
Starting Five for the regular-season finale ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/dz5KwU77b4— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 4, 2023
With no Sahvir Wheeler, Cason Wallace, and a very limited CJ Fredrick, there isn’t one guy on this roster who can have a game where they don’t step up above their average performances. Going to take an all-team effort to grind out a win like this.— Tres Terrell (@TerrellTres) March 4, 2023
We're less than 3 minutes into the game and UK assistant Orlando Antigua is already blocking John Calipari as the coach yells at the refs. #BBN— John Clay (@johnclayiv) March 4, 2023
After 2 minutes of play ...— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) March 4, 2023
4 Arkansas points
4 Kentucky points
3 Calipari outbursts https://t.co/c6lOxVuTdy
That's about as animated as you'll see Oscar Tshiebwe toward another player. And then Nick Smith Jr. gets involved. Referees are at the monitor.— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) March 4, 2023
Kentucky 6, Arkansas 6. 16:12 left
Looks like they're not going to show us the replay here.
Oscar can’t let Mitchell get under his skin. It’s clearly Mitchell’s goal and the reason he is in there. Oscar let it happen at Rupp and he can’t today— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) March 4, 2023
somebody needs to tell Arkansas player he got elbow to back of head not forehead where ice pack is.— Darrell Bird (@DarrellBird) March 4, 2023
Chippy start in Fayetteville. Oscar Tshiebwe can't let his emotions get to him in this one, Arkansas knows he's Kentucky's lone shot to stay in it. Going to test him all game.— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) March 4, 2023
Could've gotten thrown out for the elbow.
CBS called this a “melee”.— Tristan Pharis (@TristanUda) March 4, 2023
There was an elbow but definitely a bit dramatic… pic.twitter.com/nqdq9PaQDT
Oscar Tshiebwe has set the tone early on, and Jacob Toppin has jumped on for the ride. Arkansas has no answer for Kentucky’s front court right now. @KentuckyRivals— David Sisk (@CoachDavidSisk) March 4, 2023
Kentucky is playing as well as you could possibly expect given the circumstances. Need to keep packing it defensively and crashing the glass offensively.— Brandon Ramsey (@BRamseyKSR) March 4, 2023
Have to keep Arkansas from going on runs. It gets LOUD here in a hurry.
Cal out on floor, gets warning. So clearly the benches are too close to floor so he makes them move back. Priceless.— Darrell Bird (@DarrellBird) March 4, 2023
Calipari getting a coach's box warning then whipping around and making his bench and the row behind them back their chairs up was hilarious. Chin was laughing the whole time.— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) March 4, 2023
Bruiser and Chin like pic.twitter.com/EhX7OWxh24— Big Blue Drew (@BigBlueDrew33) March 4, 2023
Love the fight from the Cats. What I wanted to see more than anything. Keep fighting and I’ll live with the result.— Jim Hook (@Coach_Hook14) March 4, 2023
This is where the wheels fell off a bit for Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt. In a solid position now, just get to halftime. Can't let the momentum flip.— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) March 4, 2023
What a gritty half so far. Impressed with toppin’s ability to handle the basketball. He’s stepped up with Wheeler and Wallace out— Mason McGehee (@MasonMcGehee) March 4, 2023
Kentucky shooting 51.7% in the 1st, Arkansas 41.2%. Made 3 more FT’s. Outrebounded the Hawgs by 5. How in the world are they only up four? Arkansas with 9 points off Kentucky turnovers. @KentuckyRivals— David Sisk (@CoachDavidSisk) March 4, 2023
Our lead at the break. pic.twitter.com/oq8lkM2bfb— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 4, 2023
Halftime Stats— CatsCoverage.com (@Cats_Coverage) March 4, 2023
Antonio Reeves: 15 points
Oscar Tshiebwe: 12 points
Jacob Toppin: 7 points
Daimion Collins: 2 points
CJ Fredrick: 2 points
Adou Thiero: 2 points
Oscar Tshiebwe checking back in after going down with a scary knee injury— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) March 4, 2023
Devo Davis now ejected. This game is wild.— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) March 4, 2023
I do love Bud Walton’s atmosphere tho. Best in the SEC— Ian Teasley (@ianteasley) March 4, 2023
Musselman wanted this though. He's been complaining about everything all game as well. No doubt this was the approach Arkansas wanted to take to try to frustrate Kentucky. It's backfiring.— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) March 4, 2023
YEAH, TONE pic.twitter.com/C01AtF9fdq— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 4, 2023
THE REEVES GAME— Billy Sewell (@GoCayts) March 4, 2023
It's Antonio Reeves' world, we're all just living in it.— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) March 4, 2023
26 points on 8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT, 8-8 FT in 24 minutes as PG1.
This UK-Arkansas game feels like the 1990’s. Not in terms great play or ridiculous scoring, but rather intensity, a LONG game, highly emotional, plenty of fouls, and here comes Arkansas. Good grief— Brian Milam (@brianwkyt) March 4, 2023
Kentucky misses out on four straight points. What could have been a 12-point Kentucky lead is only 5.— Steven Peake (@StevenPeakeKSR) March 4, 2023
JACOB TOPPIN FOR THREE!— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 4, 2023
Kentucky shooting 49 percent, holding Arkansas to 35 percent, leading 60-52 with 7:39 to go, but Oscar Tshiebwe just picked up his fourth foul. Cats trying to hold onto a fairly shocking upset.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) March 4, 2023
March 4, 2023
SEE YOU IN NASHVILLE #BBN!!!— TJ Beisner (@tjbeisner) March 4, 2023
That's the perfect win going into postseason play. Now get healthy.— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) March 4, 2023
Antonio Reeves had 37???? pic.twitter.com/DIfsuqiros— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) March 4, 2023
John Calipari post game press conference pic.twitter.com/RDOo5nwtSR— wildcatcorey (@WildcatCorey) March 4, 2023
WOO PIG SEE YOU LATER pic.twitter.com/1yYR4d8wAi— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 4, 2023
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