The Kentucky Wildcats beat the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville on Saturday night by a score of 63-57.
The Cats got off to an incredibly slow start that made the rest of the game an uphill battle. They started just 3-for-21 from the field within the first 13 minutes into the game. They couldn't buy a basket.
Luckily, Arkansas wasn't exactly lighting the nets on fire either, so despite the poor play, Kentucky was down just 26-24 at the half.
After the break, the offense was better, but it still wasn't the Kentucky we’ve become accustomed to seeing this season. However, when it really mattered, Kentucky locked things down and got the job done. Leading by just one with two minutes left, the Cats went on an 8-0 run to pull away from the Hogs.
This game wasn't Kentucky’s most impressive this season, but a win is a win, especially with the way teams have been losing on the road this year. I mean, take a look for yourself—everyone is losing on the road, so getting out of Arkansas with a W is big for Kentucky.
AP Top 10 teams are now 17-27 (38.6%) this season on the road against unranked opponents. College Basketball is a completely different sport than it has been in the past...— Brandon Ramsey (@BRamseyKSR) January 26, 2024
It is REALLY hard to win on the road!
Next up, the Cats return to Lexington to take on the Florida Gators on Wednesday night, then host the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers next Saturday.
Here are three things to know from win No. 15 for the Cats!
Offensive woes continue
Kentucky leads the country in scoring at 89.9 points per game. The evolution of the offense from the past few years to this one has been a welcome surprise.
However, the Cats are trending in the wrong direction. Kentucky scored 96 points in the first 32 minutes against the Georgia Bulldogs last Saturday, but over the last eight minutes, they were outscored 28-9. Kentucky dropped 105 points, so there truly wasn't much to complain about, but it was a disappointing ending to a fun game.
The concern grew when Kentucky was absolutely dominated by the South Carolina Gamecocks on Tuesday. The Cats scored just 62 points and lost by 17. It was the second time this season UK was held under 80 points in a game (UNC-Wilmington being the other), and it wasn't pretty.
Again, maybe just a poor showing? Obviously, Kentucky has been consistently good offensively all season long, but the last eight minutes against UGA and the entire game against South Carolina were ugly.
Well, it didn't get any better in this one. In fact, it arguably was worse. Kentucky was held to just 24 first-half points—the first time in the Calipari era at UK that the Cats were held to 25 points or less in the first half in back-to-back games.
It must be noted that Rob Dillingham missed this game due to an illness. Kentucky’s microwave scorer was sorely missed as they could've used a spark off the bench.
Kentucky has one of the best backcourts in the country, and while they’re deep, Kentucky’s team is very dependent on their guards. All four guys have different skill sets, and each is needed for UK to be at its best. That’s why Dilly’s absence was so significant.
The defensive woes DID NOT continue
It seems pretty clear to me at this point that the Cats are never going to be a good defensive squad. But, assuming the offense returns to form, they don't need to be. They just need to be good enough.
Adou Thiero’s return certainly went a long way toward the positive showing on the defensive end. Unfortunately, Dillingham’s absence probably played a big part in it.
What also must be considered is that the Razorbacks are a really bad team. They are sub-100 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. However, Kentucky hasn't stopped anyone from scoring this season, so regardless of the matchup, it was still a welcome development, especially with how bad the offense has been.
Reeves loves Fayetteville
Antonio Reeves loves Fayetteville, Arkansas.
He dropped 37 points in Fayetteville last season in an epic performance. As you may remember, Cason Wallace was out, Sahvir Wheeler was out, and for the first time all season, Reeves was forced to handle point guard duties. The Cats had been blown out at home just a few games prior by the Hogs, so confidence was not exactly high, and Reeves proved everyone wrong.
In this game, Reeves was tasked with doing just about all the scoring for Kentucky. He didn't drop 37, and he wasn't perfect, but he was Kentucky’s only consistent source of offense with 24 points on 9/20 shooting. Reeves is the only reason that the Cats had a chance in this game.
This was a much-needed win. Let’s hope they’re able to keep the momentum going.