LEXINGTON, KY. – Back in the day when these two teams played, it was on Super Sunday and the two elite teams always lived up to the advanced billing by putting up close to 200 points.
In 2008, it was just a highly competitive Saturday between two teams squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble and shells of their former selves.
Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley each had 18 points and Patrick Patterson 14 points and 11 rebounds as the University of Kentucky whipped the University of Arkansas 63-58 before 24,371 fans at Rupp Arena and a CBS regional television audience.
"When Kentucky needed them the most, they all made plays," noted Arkansas head coach and former Kentucky star John Pelphrey. "We couldn't sustain our defense when we needed to. On the road, you have to be 10 points better than your opponent. When adversity comes your way and they have to have the home game you better be ready...I give full credit to Kentucky. They played better than us and deserved to win."
Despite a game-high 26 points from senior small forward Sonny Weems, it also means that the half-dozen Arkansas seniors will leave having not ever beaten Kentucky unless the play the Wildcats in postseason play.
It also spoiled his homecoming and no doubt hurt even more Mississippi State's Ben Hansbrough hit 3 free throws with a second left and the Bulldogs went on to beat South Carolina 61-56 in overtime to keep the Razorbacks (18-8, 7-5) two games back in the SEC West.
"I think just about everybody knows how I feel about this place," Pelphrey said. "It was a flood of great memories as I walked back into the building. I held my daughter's hand as I was walking through the back door I have come through so many times and it was a strange feeling. I have to remind myself that my kids are 11 and 8 years old.
"I have a lot of memories here, but it doesn't get in the way of the job I am trying to get done. I loved this place when I played here and have a deep affection for it. It means so much to me. I really wanted to win this game."
Seniors Crawford and Bradley had 21 of their team's last 31 points in what was the eighth straight win for the Wildcats (15-10, 9-3) in the series and the seventh straight in Lexington.
Kentucky, winners of 9 of their last 12 games, also kept their hopes alive to sneak into the tournament after a 6-7 non-conference start and tied for league's second-best conference mark.
"This was really a big win for us against a very good team that is very athletic," Kentucky head coach Billy Gillispie said. "They didn't let us do a whole lot offensively throughout the game. This was a very big win for us againsts a team that is very difficult to play against and prepare for."
Weems had 22 of his game-high 26 points in the second half as the Razorbacks lost their third game in four outings.
It happened in part because of sustained offensive droughts in both halves, including one stretch in the first half where Arkansas had just one field goal the final 10-plus minutes.
"I feel like their were stretches where we didn't sustain our high level of play," Pelphrey said. "I think we are making progress, but we need to continue to get tougher and nastier. We are going to stay on these guys. If we can get that way these droughts (in each half) will go away."
Arkansas led 55-54 with 2:35 remaining when Weems scored on a fast-break layup, but Bradley and Crawford finished out the game.
Bradley's 15-footer gave his team a 57-55 edge with 1:16 left and the Wildcats hits 6 free throws to put the game away.
The win came before the fifth largest crowd in Rupp Arena history.
"If we don't have the home crowd today like we did, we don't win," Gillispie said. "Our crowd was as good as it has been all year today. In a low-scoring game where baskets were difficult to come by they (the crowd) made a difference. "Our guys in the locker room were talking about how much energy the crowd gave them to guard a difficult team down the stretch."
One of the biggest keys was Kentucky out-rebounding Arkansas 38-23, including picking up 13 offensive rebounds while the taller Razorbacks had just 3.
"Everyone talked about our advantage up front, but you didn't see it today," Pelphrey said. "I think we did a pretty good job defensively. Patrick Patterson only had 14 points and I felt like it was a hard game for him. I looked at our defensive plan and thought we had a good one. The offensive rebounding can really swing the battle and Kentucky won that.
"I'm still waiting for this great frontcourt to show up and it hasn't," Pelphrey added sternly. "We got outplayed in the offensive rebounding category."
Gillispie, whose assistants include former Arkansas assistant Glynn Cyprien and former UA-Fort Smith head coach Jeremy Cox, was obviously thrilled with that stat.
"I can't believe they only had 3 offensive rebounds and one was off a loose ball," Gillispie said. "It was fantastic for us and it was a major concern due to Arkansas' length and athleticism. For us to keep them from getting offensive rebounds was huge and the difference in the game."
No one else was in double figures for Arkansas, who trailed 27-22 at half, but rallied to take a 39-32 lead with 10 minutes left in the game.
Sparked by all eight of Ervin's points in the game, Arkansas jumped out to a 17-12 lead when he drained a 3-pointer with 10:29 left in the half.
But the Razorbacks would only get one field goal and 5 points in the final 10-plus minutes of the opening half.
That allowed the Wildcats not only to get back in the game, but take the lead 21-20 on Derrick Jasper's bucket with 6:49 remaining in the first half.
The Kentucky surge grew to 11-1 when Perry Stevenson hit a pair of free throws to put his team up 25-20 at the 3:41 mark.
Weems' slam ended a 8-plus minute field goal drought, but Kentucky would take a 27-22 lead to the break.
Arkansas stormed out of the second half with a 17-5 spree beginning with a Weems 3, taking a 31-29 lead on another 3 by him and then going up 39-32 when he dropped in another with 13:10 left in the game.
The Wildcats battled back with their own 10-3 run, tying the game on Crawford's 3-point play that made it 42-42 with just 10:19 left in the game.
It then settled in for a battle that went into the final minutes of the game.
Neither team shot exceptional from the field with Arkansas shooting 41 percent from the field and Kentucky 40 percent.
The Razorbacks hit 8 3-pointers to Wildcats' 3, but the home team shot 20-of-27 from the free throw line to Arkansas' 10-of-14.
Patrick Beverley had just 4 points on 1-of-8 shooting.
"He's a great player," Gillispie said. He's not a good player, he's a great player. He can hurt you in so many ways. The defense on him was huge because it's hard to keep everyone in check. I have to credit all of our guys."
Arkansas will return to action Wednesday at Alabama while Kentucky hosts Ole Miss.
Former Kentucky star and current Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey surveys the scene before the game starts.
UK 63, Arkansas 58
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