- Saturday, February 3 2007 -
Kentucky - 82 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
Arkansas - 74 (Head Coach: Stan Heath) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Arkansas 35, Kentucky 30
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|Tennessee 76 - 57|||||South Carolina 95 - 89|
Game Writeup - Written by Darrell Bird; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
UK roars back to top Razorbacks
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. Ð The third time proved to be Kentucky's charm in an impressive 82-74 win over Arkansas on Saturday.
Already this season, Arkansas had destroyed highly touted programs inside Bud Walton Arena, routing Alabama and LSU by 25 and 20 points, respectively. So when the Razorbacks pushed ahead of Kentucky by 14 points with a whopping 17 minutes remaining, one had to wonder if the Cats might be next?
Instead Kentucky used an 18-5 scoring blitz to erase that 45-31 deficit, and then stretched that same run to 32-10 for its own eight-point lead at 63-55 on the way to its 17th victory of the season.
"Winners find a way to win and that's what this team did today," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "This team is almost there. I keep telling the guys that we are so close if we can just get everybody playing at the same level of intensity and the same level of consistency on a regular basis."
Two critical events happened when Arkansas pushed ahead 45-31, capping a sizzling 27-5 blitz of the visiting Cats.
1) Center Randolph Morris went to the bench after allowing Arkansas' Steven Hill to blow by him uncontested for two points, a move that forced UK to a smaller, quicker lineup.
"We put some more pressure on them by going to a switching man-to-man to make them use a little more time," Smith explained. "Another thing we did is really cover up their three-point shooting until right there at the very end.
"It was just a matter of energy and getting the right people in the game," the coach added. "That's the key, getting the right combination. You're always searching to see who is going to give you that energy."
2) Ramel Bradley swished a three-pointer moments later. The basket at 16:22 was UK's first field goal of the second half and the beginning of a remarkable 22-point second half for the UK junior guard.
"I thought Ramel was huge with his energy," Smith said. "Ramel is an emotional player. He feeds off that energy, whether he generates it himself or if it comes from his teammates. He's our leader, our vocal leader. He made great plays today. Now, I need him to do that more often."
Bradley, who had missed 19 of his previous 22 three-point attempts before that basket, scored 12 points on four three-pointers over a 13-minute span as Kentucky pushed ahead for good. The junior then converted 8-of-8 free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory and chalk up his own career-best 24 points.
"When they got that lead I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, we've let them back in it,'" Bradley said. "The one guy went full court for the dunk and this place erupted. But I told the guys to stay tough and stay focused.
"We knew it was going to be like this on the road," Bradley added. "You have to grind out these kind of wins."
Bradley was one of four UK players to score in double figures against Arkansas. Jodie Meeks came off the bench for 15 followed by Randolph Morris with 14 and Joe Crawford with 13.
The victory improves Kentucky to 17-5 overall and 6-2 in the Southeastern Conference. The Cats return home this week for two games at Rupp Arena against the best and worst from the SEC East.
On Wednesday, the Cats face last place South Carolina, a team UK routed 87-49 in Columbia on Jan. 16. On Saturday, Kentucky gets its shot at No. 1 Florida. Tip-off is 9 p.m. Saturday night as the ESPN Game Day crew will be in Lexington throughout the day leading up to the showdown.
Sheray Thomas draws a charge from Arkansas freshman Patrick Beverley
Derrick Jasper faces off against Stefan Welsh
Patrick Beverley (#21) drives against UK's Ramel Bradley (#3) and Joe Crawford (#32)