- Saturday, February 26 2000 -
Arkansas - 55 (Head Coach: Nolan Richardson) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 60 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 18th by AP]
|J. P. Blevins||25||3||6||1||3||0||0||0||0||0||3||3||0||0||1||7|
Halftime Score: Kentucky 28, Arkansas 27
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Tennessee 67 - 74|||||Mississippi State 73 - 61|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Jeff Drummond; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Bogans leads UK
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Call it a Rolling Stones special.
It wasn't what Kentucky wanted, but it was exactly what the No. 18 Wildcats needed.
Hoping to break out of its offensive woes Saturday at Rupp Arena against Arkansas, Kentucky retained its status as the Southeastern Conference's worst shooting team, hitting just 35 percent from the field and 16 percent from 3-point range. But, true to form, the Cats relied on old standbys such as defense and rebounding in a 60-55 victory over the Razorbacks that kept their hopes alive for the SEC championship.
Kentucky (20-8 overall, 10-4 SEC) pulled even with Tennessee in the Eastern Division after the No. 7 Volunteers were upset 80-75 Saturday at Alabama. Florida holds a half-game lead over both teams heading into Sunday's matchup with Western Division co-leader Auburn in Gainesville. LSU is also in the title hunt thanks to a 71-66 victory over Mississippi State last night.
To keep pace, the Cats had to turn back upset-minded Arkansas (14-13, 6-8). Kentucky did so by getting 22 points and nine rebounds from freshman guard Keith Bogans and 15 points and 12 rebounds from senior center Jamaal Magloire. Sophomore forward Tayshaun Prince added eight points and a career-high 11 rebounds for UK, who owned a commanding 45-28 advantage on the boards and held a 17-4 margin in second-chance points.
"If you can be consistent in those areas --- rebounding the ball and defending --- you can usually be in the game," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "That's what we've done all year long to overcome some of the deficiencies we've had.
"Our shooting has been up-and-down all year long, so until we start shooting consistently well, we are going to have to answer those questions. We play good defense and play unselfishly, all the things that it takes to be a championship team, but we just need to get the shots to fall. We had good looks, they are just falling short."
Although the Cats have shot 40 percent or less 14 times this season, early on it appeared they would have a solid performance. Bogans hit a pair of 3-pointers to start the game as Kentucky raced to an 18-9 lead. But after hitting six of their first 10 shots from the field, the familiar problems began showing up for the Cats.
Arkansas pulled even and eventually took a 25-23 advantage as Kentucky went 6:34 without a field goal and made only one basket during a span of 10:21. An inside basket by Magloire and a 3-pointer by reserve guard J.P. Blevins staked the Cats to a 28-27 lead at the half, but Smith was anything but pleased.
"Whenever you don't shoot the ball with some consistency, it's not going to be a very pretty game," Smith said. "There was a stretch there where we stayed on 18 (points) for about five minutes. I just seemed like forever. And we had some good looks, they just weren't going in. To be honest with you, I'm at a loss."
Kentucky also hit just three of 11 free throws in the first half.
"We were disappointed in our free throws," Smith said. "We should have been up at least five or six at halftime."
Once many of the young Razorbacks adjusted to the initial shock of playing at Rupp Arena for the first time, they managed to hang with the Cats the rest of the way. The first nine minutes of the second half featured four ties and five lead changes before Arkansas inched out to a 47-44 edge at the 11:14 mark.
The Razorbacks had a chance to push their lead to five, but Brandon Dean missed a pair of shots around the basket and Kentucky responded with a key 3-pointer by Prince to tie the game at 47 with 8:50 remaning.
The teams again traded baskets over the next several minutes until, with Kentucky leading 53-51, Saul Smith hit an 18-foot jumper as the shot clock was running down for what turned out to be his lone field goal on a 1-for-8 shooting day. But it turned out to be the biggest of the day, giving the Cats a four-point margin with 3:24 to play.
"I thought one of the big keys to the ballgame was when they had eight seconds on the clock and little Smith hit the (shot) with the clock running down," Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said. "That was a big play. That may have been the difference in the basketball game."
It gave Kentucky some breathing room, and although the Razorbacks twice pulled within two, they could not get over the hump. Arkansas' Blake Eddins missed a pair of potential game-winning 3-pointers in the waning moments, and Magloire ensured the victory by hitting four straight free throws and blocking a shot in the final 20 seconds.
"Magloire hitting those four free throws, that is what a senior has to do. Next year you will be seeing him on television everyday. He's an NBA prospect," Richardson said.
"That's just Jamaal's game," Bogans added. "Every time we're in close games, he wants the ball. He'd probably be mad at you if you didn't give him the ball. He's a big-time player."
Richardson was also impressed with Bogans' play.
"Bogans came up big. He is a very strong player. I didn't realize he was that strong. He must have been their leading scorer because it seemed like every time they needed something he came away with the basket. He really stepped up big in this game," Richardson said.
While Kentucky's stars shined, the Razorbacks' leading-scorer never got untracked. Freshman swingman Joe Johnson came into the game averaging 15.6 points, but picked up three fouls in the first half and finished with just 10 points.
"He was a point of emphasis in our scouting report," Smith said. "He got off to a tough start there, picking up three fouls in the first half, and got him back on his heels a bit. I thought Tayshaun and Jules (Camara) gave him a tough look. It's hard to see over them and shoot over them."
Arkansas was led by Eddins with 12 points. Teddy Gilpin added nine for the Razorbacks, who have 10 underclassmen on this year's roster.
"I was real proud of our kids," Richardson said. "We executed well and played good defense. The thing that was very weak was the board department, and we'll work on that, but I thought our kids played a solid basketball game.
"We are very young. We have had some problems. And Tubby has had problems at Kentucky. But I am enjoying coaching more so than I ever have because I am coaching a bunch of puppies. And I can't wait to see these puppies grow up. When they grow up they will begin to look around. My puppies are beginning to look around."
"You've got to compliment Arkansas," Smith said. "They played extremely hard and I thought they had a great game plan that they executed extremely well. We had trouble guarding the guy off the dribble and they hurt us when they penetrated and pitched it out."
The Cats return to action Tuesday at Mississippi State in a 9 p.m. ESPN matchup.
"Going down to Mississippi State, we have to play better than we did today," Saul Smith said. "We haven't played well in six or seven games. We don't have much fun when we're not playing well. The crowd was good today, but we won't have that luxury next time."