While first-year Arkansas coach John Pelphrey bemoaned the fact that the Razorbacks "didn't sustain our defense when we needed to," Arkansas guarded well enough to win. Kentucky shot 40 percent, its worst field-goal percentage since Jan. 15, and the Hogs forced the Wildcats to make difficult shots down the stretch.
Arkansas' offense, however, was far more erratic — efficient at times, sloppy at others. And the offensive inconsistency, which resulted in the Razorbacks' second-lowest point total this season, absolutely maddened them.
"Sometimes, we're great, sometimes we're not," Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin said. "It's frustrating. We can't seem to score like we want to for a whole game."
The Hogs (18-8, 7-5 Southeastern Confefrence) didn't even get close Saturday as they experienced negative and positive moments in each half.
They started confident, draining five of their first 12 shots while committing just two turnovers in the first 9 minutes, 29 seconds. When Ervin drained a 3-pointer from the right corner, the Razorbacks led Kentucky 17-12. But Arkansas connected on just one field goal the remainder of the half, a Sonny Weems dunk with 2:08 left before halftime.
Five missed shots, six turnovers and few fast breaks marred the rest of the half.
"We weren't getting the ball out quick enough (for fast breaks)," Ervin said. "They were able to set up their half-court defense, and that was key because they have a great half-court defense."
Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said the Wildcats stressed slowing down Arkansas during their preparations.
"It's really hard to do that, and we knew that," Gillispie said. "They don't have one guy who dominates the ball like we do. They run lanes really well, and it's difficult to stop them. We did try to press them a bit and were able to stop them from doing what they wanted to for a while."
That wasn't the case after halftime. Weems scored 22 of his game-high 26 points in the second half, and he tallied a sizable chunk of them on fast breaks. He nailed a couple of pull-up 3-pointers, and his fast-break layup with 2:37 left answered Joe Crawford's jumper eight seconds later, putting Arkansas up 55-54.
Weems' bucket, though, was one of only two Arkansas field goals in the last 3:46 and marked the Hogs' last lead.
The other possessions during that span, other than Weems' dunk, resulted in three missed layups, a misfired jump shot by Weems and a Beverley free throw. Weems finally put in a layup with eight seconds left.
Afterward, Gillispie called the contest a "hard-to-get-a-basket game." Pelphrey wasn't entirely encouraged, but he also is annoyed with the inconsistency.
"I thought there was some good stuff (offensively)," Pelphrey said. "We just weren't good enough for long enough to win."
ARKANSAS AT ALABAMA
WHEN: 7:05 p.m. TV: Raycom (Cox Ch. 7)
WHERE: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
RECORDS: Arkansas, 18-8, 7-5 Southeastern Conference; Alabama, 14-13, 3-9
RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3
SERIES: Arkansas leads 24-20 (Alabama leads 13-5 in Tuscaloosa)
LAST MEETING: Arkansas beat Alabama 63-57 on Jan. 27, 2007 in Tuscaloosa
Arkansas Remaining Schedule
Feb. 27 at Alabama
March 1 Vanderbilt
March 4 at Ole Miss
March 8 Auburn
On entering Rupp Arena for his first trip back to Kentucky as a head coach:
"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. That was a very strange feeling. ... I really wanted to win. Now I have to listen to those people back in Paintsville about who's better."
On losing a lead that was seven points with 13 minutes, 23 seconds left and three points with 3:47 to go:
"There's no excuse. It wasn't like we were down 10 points with one minute to go. It was a game where we were up with four minutes to go. Late in the game, we need to get stops on the defensive end, and convert on offense, and we didn't."
Kentucky guard on the Wildcats' recent trend of winning without style points:
"Coach Gillispie likes ugly games because we know we can win those. He tells us all the time the game could come down to one or two possessions. The uglier the game, the better for us. Going down the stretch, when the game is close like that, we can pull those games out."
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