Since Kentucky is 82-3 at home since John Calipari arrived, not many national pundits are giving Arkansas much of a chance in Lexington Thursday night even if the Razorbacks have won five of their last six games.
It's also been 20 years since Arkansas has won at Rupp Arena. - albeit Arkansas has won the last two games it has played with Kentucky - both in Fayetteville.
But Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson nevertheless will take the Razorbacks (18-9, 7-7) into the 6 p.m meeting with the Wildcats (21-6, 11-3) that will be nationally televised by ESPN.
"As the season winds down – four games left – we have the charge to go on the road and play against a talented Kentucky team that we played earlier in the year," Anderson said. "Obviously it is going to be a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous challenge.
"One of the things they did well here was they really attacked the glass well on us," Anderson added. "We did a good job ourselves, had a lot more shot attempts than they did, but the rebounding was certainly in their favor and a lot of free throws (81) were shot. I expect a hard-fought game with two teams that are going to really get after each other."
So does Calipari, whose team is coming in off an 77-76 overtime win over LSU at home on Saturday.
"I would guess that both teams have gotten better," Calipari said. "I have watched a couple of tapes of them. A lot of the scrambling and stuff, they are even taking it to another level. I think their breakdown guys really have the ability to get to the basket."
Anderson agrees with that sentiment.
"I think we're trusting one another," Anderson said. "I think our defense is a lot better. I think our defense has been tremendous, it's created ... I think the tempo of the game now. We're really pushing tempo, and I think we're pushing the ball and we're pushing it with the understanding of executing, not necessarily just running and letting it fly."
Arkansas won the previous match-up between the two this season 87-85 when Razorback sophomore guard Michael Qualls slammed home Rashad Madden's missed 3-pointer near the buzzer.
Qualls did his best to shrug it off on Tuesday.
"I forgot it the next game," Qualls said. " I know it was big for everybody around here. We are just going to go out and go play, play our same style of ball. We are going to look at the film and see what we did right and did wrong."
The two teams have a pair of the best freshman forward in the league in Kentucky's Julius Randle (15.7, 10.3) and Arkansas' Bobby Portis (13.1, 6.6).
Randle had 20 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks in the first match-up between the two while Portis had 11 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
"I actually took something from his game from the first time we played them here," Portis said. " He's a physical presence down low. So after that game, I tried to establish myself down low, too and be a force on my team. Like as he is. He's a good player. He's physical and he's kind of quick off the dribble too. So if we can contain him, then, yeah, I like our chances in the game."
Florida and Kentucky are seemingly locks for the NCAA Tournament while third-place Georgia and seven teams tied for fourth – one of them being Arkansas – are trying to fight their way into the Big Dance.
"We control our own destiny and that is the most important thing so I don't even worry about what other people say," Anderson said. "The things that we are going to control are this next game. There are four games left and we've got a bunch of teams that have got seven losses. It's a big week, a big could of weeks for a lot of teams for a lot of reasons.
"The only thing I want our kids to concentrate on is the next game," Anderson said. "You do what you are supposed to do and it will take care of itself."
Bobby Portis puts in two of his points as Julius Randle looks on.
Rematch At Rupp
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