The Razorbacks needed an extra five minutes in both meetings this year, but came away with a pair of upset wins over the Wildcats that may have kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
The first came on Jan. 14 in Fayetteville, an 87-85 victory on a last-second rebound dunk by Michael Qualls. The latest came Thursday night in Lexington in slightly less dramatic fashion, a 71-67 triumph highlighted by a 16-for-16 night at the free throw line by the Razorbacks to deliver their first win at Rupp Arena since 1994.
Rashad Madden 12, Coty Clark 11 and Anthlon Bell 10 – while two others, Bobby Portis and Alandise Harris, came up with nine and eight points, respectively, in an impressive team win.
The Razorbacks held Kentucky to 34 percent shooting from the field and forced 18 turnovers leading to 21 points for the winners.
"What a great ball game," said Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, who has a 4-2 record versus UK since taking over the Razorback program. "It wasn't a thing of beauty from a shooting standpoint, (but) there was outstanding defensive play tonight. Neither team wanted to give in to the other team, and it took overtime.
"If you have watched us play basketball this year, you would know that we have played in many games like this. It was good to see us come out on the right side of the ledger. It was a gutty performance by our guys."
The Arkansas win clinched the SEC regular season championship outright for new AP No. 1 Florida, who won Feb. 15 in Lexington and remains undefeated in league play with three games remaining. No. 17 Kentucky (21-7, 11-4) lost for only the fourth time in 86 games under coach John Calipari at Rupp Arena.
"They beat us to loose balls. We missed 10 one-foot shots. We missed all the free throws that mattered," said a despondent Calipari. "We have a lead late, and we're leaving timeouts not executing… We took two steps back today."
Asked if he's tiring of questions about whether his team is "turning the corner" or getting "over the hump," UK freshman forward Julius Randle said: "I don't know if it's about me being tired of answering the question. I just want to see us reach our potential. We are not where we need to be right now."
It may have been a crucial loss for Kentucky's NCAA seeding prospects. The Wildcats had been hovering around the 4-5 line for most of the new year, but could slide into treacherous 7-10 territory with a game remaining at Florida and the SEC Tournament still on the slate.
The Wildcats trailed most of the game and by as many as 12 in the first half, but battled back within 37-30 at halftime. With the help of a 14-2 run, Kentucky tied the game at 52 with 6:00 to go in regulation and surged ahead by five moments later.
Kentucky's James Young and Willie Cauley-Stein tried to deter a shot by Arkansas' Rashad Madden. (AllWildcats Photo by Jeff Drummond.)
Kentucky got a game-high 16 points and 13 rebounds (9 offensive) from sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein in one of his better all-around performances of the season. He was a big part of a 47-38 rebounding advantage and 19 second-chance points for the Cats.
"Willie Cauley-Stein, I think, was single-handedly keeping Kentucky in the game," Anderson said.
"Willie was good," Calipari said. "Willie tried. Offensively rebounded, went after balls, blocked shots, had a presence. Again, this may have been a 15- or 18-point game if Willie wasn't in there."
Asked about the bittersweet feeling, Cauley-Stein said: "Just forget it and move on. There's not much you can do about it. There's no reason to soak in it, just remember the feeling. It's getting too close to crunch time."
Randle added his 15th double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) for the Cats, while Andrew Harrison and James Young added 14 points and 11 points, respectively. But Calipari conceded that some of his key players (Randle 40 minutes, 39 and 38 for Harrison twins) played too long and suffered from fatigue late in the game.
And the UK boss wasn't impressed by his backcourt's scoring figures.
"Our guards didn't play well," Calipari said. "I mean, you could say shooting. I could tell you dribbling. We had three guys that had 11 turnovers between them. So our guard play was horrendous today."
• Kentucky leads the all-time series with Arkansas 25-11, including 12-3 in Lexington. It was the Razorbacks' first win at Rupp Arena since their 1994 NCAA championship season.
• UK was coming off an overtime win over LSU on Saturday. The last time the Cats played back-to-back overtime games was Dec. 9 and Dec. 16, 1978, when they beat Kansas at home and lost the following game at Indiana.
• The last time UK had overtime games against the same opponent in a season was 2010 against Mississippi State, winning at Starkville and again in the SEC Tournament in Nashville.
• The Cats got two double-doubles for the first time since Nov. 19 against Texas-Arlington..
• UK returns to action Saturday at South Carolina (10-18, 3-12 SEC). Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on ESPN.