It was looking like Kentucky was heading for a rerun of Wednesday night’s foul-filled collapse at South Carolina, an exact replica of the least enjoyable game of basketball ever played, until the Cats kicked it into gear once John Calipari was dismissed from the arena midway through the second half. Calipari’s ejection from a tie game sparked a big Kentucky run as the Cats went on to put away the Hogs, 73-66, in Fayetteville.
Some things to note…
SEC officiating is awful.
I said it after Kentucky lost to South Carolina and I’m saying it again after Kentucky earned a big road win in arguably the toughest environment in the conference: The league needs to fix its officiating problem. It’s not an excuse for either team and I’m not saying it was unfair either way; it just makes the product hard to watch. That is all. These guys insert themselves into the game and not one person playing, coaching or watching is there for the officials. Let the basketball players play basketball. It shouldn’t be this hard.
Kentucky’s Big 4 reached double figures in scoring. One more did too!
New game, same story. Most of the Cats’ points came from the group of Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards; in fact, those four scored 54 of Kentucky’s 73 points.
The bench added 18 points to help out in the win, led by Keion Brooks with 10 points. Brooks was only three rebounds away from his first career double-double. And he finally got a put-back to go in!
Johnny Juzang also took a step forward.
After playing only eight minutes in the entire month of January before Saturday, Juzang had a big first half in Fayetteville. The freshman role player scored five points on 2-of-3 shooting, including the rare made three-pointer, his first since November.
You’re not going to see any Juzang highlights on SportsCenter tonight, but it was a big step in the right direction. He was even in the game in the final minute when Arkansas tried to make a comeback. Maybe this will get some confidence going behind him and he can become a contributor off the bench because Lord knows Kentucky needs more help.
Bud Walton Arena was excited to see John Calipari get ejected.
Bud Walton erupts as Coach Calipari gets tossed from the game: pic.twitter.com/UovEqA9jlJ
— Nikki Chavanelle (@NikkiChavanelle) January 18, 2020
They got shut up real quick though.
Ashton Hagans told Coach Cal, “We got this,” as Cal exited the premises.
At least that’s how Cal told in on Twitter after the game:
Couldn’t be more proud of the players and the staff and their will to win. As I walked off the court, @H23Ash said “We got this,” so I felt good walking off the court. Great win!!! pic.twitter.com/gnK5W91GcC
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) January 18, 2020
There’s an internet debate as to whether Cal’s ejection or Kenny Payne taking over changed the tone of the game. Cal knew what he was doing and it worked. Coach Payne did a great job in Cal’s seat once he left. It can be both.
But without that moment, I’m not sure Big Blue Nation is smiling right now.
Kentucky kept Isaiah Joe from going off.
Joe is one of the best three-point shooters in the entire country, but UK limited him to only 3-of-11 shooting from behind the line, and only 13 points in the entire game. The Cats also did a good job on Jimmy Whit Jr., who had just dropped 30 in the Razorbacks’ last game.
For Arkansas to earn a win, one of those two guys needed big numbers. It didn’t happen.
I know Arkansas wasn’t exactly lighting it up, but that’s a HUGE win.
Arkansas lost its Super Bowl on free t-shirt, new uniform night at Bud Walton. Your University of Kentucky Wildcats stepped into the hostile environment in desperate need of a win, and head home with a 4-1 record in the conference. Can’t be mad about that.
Up next is Georgia, again, back home in Rupp Arena. Let’s make it 5-1 in league play then get ready for a trip to Texas.