UK 82, Arkansas 74

Arkansas looks on the verge of winning its fifth game against a Top 25 foe only to have it snatched away by No. 24 Kentucky, who erases a 14-point second half deficit and downs the Razorbacks 82-74 Saturday afternoon before a season-high 19, 739 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

The University of Arkansas landed what looked like a knockout punch during the middle of its game with No. 24 Kentucky on Saturday, but it turns out the Wildcats weren't as woozy as it first appeared.

Ramel Bradley had 24 points, Jodie Meeks 15, Randolph Morris 14 and Joe Crawford 13 as Kentucky stormed back from a 14-point second half deficit to down Arkansas 82-74 and take its seventh straight win in the series before a season-high 19,739 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks lost despite shooting 55 percent from the field and 48 percent from the 3-point line because they coughed up the ball 19 times and got dominated on the boards during the Wildcats run.

"The two biggest keys today were they we failed to handle their fullcourt pressure and then there was a four or five-minute period where we didn't get a rebound and they got second shots," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said.

The Razorbacks (14-8, 3-5) - who got a career-best effort from freshman guard Stefan Welsh - lost their second home game this season despite going on a run during the game where they scored 27 of 33 points at one point.

They did so because they committed 11 of their 19 turnovers after getting the aforementioned 14-point lead.

"They slapped a press on us, pressured us well and everyone seemed to turn the ball over," Arkansas junior center Steven Hill said. "That's how we lost our lead."

It kept the Razorbacks from winning their fifth game this season against a Top 25 foe this season while the win allowed Kentucky (17-5, 6-2) to stay alone in second place in the SEC's Eastern Division behind defending national champion Florida.

Patrick Beverley had a game-high 25 points to lead Arkansas while Sonny Weems added 14, Steven Hill 13 points and four steals, Welsh 10 of his career-high 13 points in the opening half and Darian Townes 9 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

Beverley was extremely disheartened by the loss.

"The guards did not work to get open," Beverley said. "We stood around against the press. I hate losing and I am not going to get used to losing."

What really bothered Beverley was the fact that his team had worked over and over in practice on the press. "We worked hard against the press every day in practice and then we get into a game and act like we don't expect it," Beverley said. "...We prepared for it and then we get in a game and act like we have never seen it."

Arkansas played without second-leading scorer Charles Thomas, who was out with a shoulder injury and that certainly helped Kentucky according to its head coach Tubby Smith.

"The difference in the game was Charles Thomas," Smith said. "They were really missing him. He is an inside-out guy that has some mobility and they lost that without him.

"He can go outside and make shots and make it hard to defend the post," Smith added.

It was the second straight season that the Razorbacks had a double-digit lead on the Wildcats in the second half only to lose the game.

"Today we showed our continuing inconsistency," Smith said. "But we settled down and bounced back. We showed great character. poise and toughness down the stretch."

Arkansas' 55 percent from the field came against the SEC's best field goal defense that was holding foes to 38 percent.

"We were real fortunate to win with them shooting like that," Smith said.

But Kentucky – who rallied from 45-31 down by hitting 7 3-pointers in the second half - shot 52 percent overall and 53 percent from 3-point range.

The rally also happened ironically with the 6-11 Morris on the bench.

"We needed quickness and we needed to do a better job of defending the interior," Smith said. "Randolph was having a tough time keeping the ball out of the middle."

Kentucky used an 8-0 run at that point to cut their deficit to 45-39, got within 50-49 on Crawford's 3-pointer with 9:19 left and then took a 54-53 lead on Meeks' lay-up with 8:22 left in the game.

Although Townes' bucket inside gave the Razorbacks the lead back, Kentucky raced away to a 63-55 margin.

The Razorbacks did cut it to 63-60 on five straight points by Beverley, but Bradley then started a march to the free throw line where he was 8-of-8 on the day to close the game out.

"We have to work to get open and our guards didn't fight to get the ball," Heath said. "When the shoe was on the other foot and we're pressing, Bradley worked his butt off to get open. He knew he was going to get fouled and get to shoot free throws."

Arkansas - still very much alive in the scrambled SEC West where it will be no more than a game out of first place at the end of the day - hosts Auburn on Wednesday night.

Darian Townes

Hawgs Daily Top Stories