Trying To Keep The Rivalry Alive

FAYETTEVILLE — At first, the reporter's question Thursday seemed to perplex Arkansas coach John Pelphrey.

But the former Kentucky standout quickly hopped on board with the idea of Arkansas-Kentucky still meaning more than most games, despite the Razorbacks' recent futility against the Wildcats.

So what if Arkansas hasn't beaten Kentucky since 2001, Pelphrey thought. So what if the series has become more one-sided than Nolan Richardson or Rick Pitino could've ever imagined.

"It's interesting you use the word rivalry, and they've won eight in a row," Pelphrey said. "Obviously, it's still a rivalry or you wouldn't say it."

Arkansas has yet another chance this afternoon, when the Wildcats visit for a nationally televised 12:05 p.m. game, to make this series competitive once again. Not that a victory by Pelphrey's young, slumping Hogs is needed to inject life into this rivalry.

Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie isn't convinced that any of its intensity has been lost because of his school's eight-year domination. Plus, Arkansas has crept ever closer to breaking through the past four seasons, losing those four games to Kentucky by a combined 16 points.

"I definitely think (it's still a rivalry)," Gillispie said. "I don't know that much about the rivalry, but I know it's been an important game for a long, long, long time and I would expect nothing different on Saturday."

Pelphrey only got to experience this rivalry one time, during the first Southeastern Conference matchup between the schools, a 1992 contest won 105-88 by the Hogs.

But he kept paying attention over the years.

"There were some great battles, not only in the regular season," Pelphrey said. "I don't know if it was the regular season as much as the SEC Tournament. They had some unbelievable games in the SEC Tournament."

Certainly the Razorbacks and Wildcats aren't playing at that type of elite level these days. Kentucky, though, is far closer than Arkansas right now, and the Razorbacks face a daunting challenge this afternoon as Pelphrey will suit up only eight scholarship players.

While the Wildcats could be without strong sophomore forward Patrick Patterson — because of a sprained right ankle — the Hogs know they'll miss suspended freshman point guard Courtney Fortson.

The fact the Razorbacks are facing Kentucky could help them overcome Fortson's loss, said freshman Michael Sanchez, who proved he knows his history.

"It's been a rivalry ever since Coach Richardson was coaching," said Sanchez, who was offered a Kentucky scholarship by Gillispie. "It was a big rivalry then and I don't know why it still wouldn't be now. Who doesn't want to play Kentucky?"

Still, the Hogs realize this afternoon's contest is about more than just reviving a rivalry. It's about winning for only the second time since Jan. 6.

"Right now, every game is kind of a rivalry," freshman forward Brandon Moore said. "We need all the wins we can get right now."

Today's Ticket

Kentucky at Arkansas

When: 12:05 p.m. TV: CBS (Cox channel 5, Cox HD channel 710).

Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville.

Records: Kentucky, 17-7, 6-3 Southeastern Conference; Arkansas, 13-9, 1-8

Radio: KEZA-FM 107.9, KKEG-FM 92.1, KUOA-AM 1290, FM 105.3.

Coaches: Kentucky, Billy Gillispie (35-20, second season at Kentucky; 135-78 overall in seven seasons); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (36-21, second season at Arkansas; 116-87 overall in seven seasons).

Series: Kentucky leads 22-7 (Tied 4-4 in Fayetteville).

Last Meeting: Kentucky beat Arkansas 63-58 on Feb. 23, 2008, in Lexington, Ky.

At A Glance

Kentucky's Winning Streak Over Arkansas

The Wildcats have beaten the Razorbacks eight consecutive times since Arkansas defeated Kentucky 82-78 on Feb. 25, 2001, in Fayetteville.

Season Site Score

2000-01 Nashville, Tenn.* 87-78

2001-02 Lexington 71-58

2002-03 Fayetteville 66-50

2003-04 Lexington 73-56

2004-05 Fayetteville 68-67

2005-06 Lexington 78-76

2006-07 Fayetteville 82-74

2007-08 Lexington 63-58

*Southeastern Conference Tournament

Hawgs Daily Top Stories