Kentucky was on the losing end, and that’s never fun, but we just watched a spectacular basketball game in Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday night. The ESPN Super Tuesday game in Fayetteville, Arkansas, an 87-85 UK loss, featured 18 ties, 10 lead changes, a last second three-pointer in regulation, overtime, and a late game-tying three-pointer, followed by what will certainly be SportsCenter’s No. 1 play Wednesday morning, a put-back dunk to end it all.
All that excitement came after one of the longest and slowest games in recent memory, thanks to an officiating crew that must’ve had money on the over in total fouls called. The crew of Ron Groover, James Breeding, and Roger Ayers called 60 fouls, and though the total on each side is close to even, a lot of those whistles were terrible. Both coaches have good reason to complain to the league office. It really affected the flow of the game and sent key players from each team to the bench in crucial moments.
Whistles aside, it was a gritty, hard-fought game for the Cats and one that will only help in the long run. And that’s what the regular season is about, right? Growth, progression and experience for that final run in March. Kentucky took a huge step in that direction Tuesday night.
Let’s discuss so we can catch the late night Australian Open action. (Kidding… you don’t care about tennis. You only care about losing at Arkansas.)
Alex Poythress’ offensive rebound was incredible.
It’ll get lost in the stories, maybe forgotten, but Alex Poythress made the best play of the first four minutes and 59 seconds of overtime, only to be overshadowed on the other end.
After a missed three-point attempt from James Young (a great look, too) to tie the game, Poythress soared over two Razorbacks for an offensive rebound to keep Kentucky’s hopes alive.
Watch the determination as he skies for the board. No one, NO ONE, was keeping Alex from getting that basketball:
Young got another look from the same spot (automatic for any great shooter) thanks to Poythress’ effort and he knocked it down to tie the game with ten seconds on the clock. Unfortunately, Poythress and Young’s late heroics were short-lived.
I ain’t mad at ya, Michael Qualls.
It’s hard to be mad at Arkansas guard Michael Qualls for that dunk to win the game. Mad at his dreadlocks, yes, but not at his slam. That was a hell of a way to win a basketball game.
That being said, box out much?
Put a body on that man.
Big Shot Andrew, Big Shot James
Two freshmen playing in only their second true road test of their careers were as cool as the other side of the pillow when their numbers were dialed late in the game.
First, it was Andrew Harrison, calm, cool, and collected, busting the three-pointer with one second remaining in regulation to face overtime. Pressure? Never heard of it. Rim? Don’t need it.
Then in overtime, it was James Young making the aforementioned sweet string music to erase an Arkansas lead in the final seconds. He missed his first attempt after a great move to create space, but there was no doubt he was finding the bottom of the net when Poythress blessed him with another try.
That’s two clutch late-game jumpers from young Wildcats in one of the most hostile environments they’ll see all year.
Coach Cal blamed the loss on one bad box out and missed free throws.
On his postgame radio show, John Calipari said he was proud of the fight his team showed in the loss.
“We grew up.” he said of his young bunch on the air.
Cal blamed the loss entirely on two simple, avoidable things: missed free throws — UK was 26-for-40 from the stripe in the game — and one bad box out on the game’s final possession. He said his guys just stood around and watched Qualls clean up the miss after Kentucky’s defense did a great job of forcing Arkansas into a bad shot.
Photo evidence of that standing around:
No cramps, only dominance, from Julius Randle.
It was the second half of the Michigan State game all over again for Julius Randle as he played hard and showed a ton of fight on both ends of the court to collect his however-many-eth double-double of the season with 20 points and 14 rebounds. He added two big blocks and two more big blocks that were mistakenly called fouls, plus five turnovers from going to that spin too much in the paint.
After the game, Randle said he thinks his diet had a lot to do with keeping the cramps away. Something obviously changed because if there were ever a time to cramp up, his effort in Tuesday night’s was it.
Foul trouble took Willie Cauley-Stein out of the game, which hurt UK defensively.
The absence of Willie Cauley-Stein was clear on the defensive end and it had a major impact on the game. Foul trouble limited the Kentucky big man to 18 minutes, 10 below his season average, and he was never really a factor. I can remember his one basket, a very nice post move, but that’s about it from Willie for the evening.
His fifth foul was pretty big, too, I guess. I think he was set but leaned out of it.
Aaron Harrison and an Arkansas fan exchanged words after the game.
Assistant coach Orlando Antigua had to get between Aaron Harrison and an overconfident Arkansas fan as Harrison walked off the floor toward the locker room following the loss. The Herald-Leader’s Mark Cornelison was nearby to capture the altercation and John Clay posted the photos to his blog.
If you’re keeping score at home, Arkansas beat eight-time national champion Kentucky at home and one fan stormed the court. Indiana beat zero-time national champion Wisconsin and everyone stormed the court.
Bring on Tennessee.