vs. Arkansas (14-5, 3-3 SEC)
Sunday, Jan. 29 at 1:06 p.m. (CBS)
Lexington, Ky. Rupp Arena (23,000)
KENTUCKY (13-6, 3-2 SEC)ttSt
Arkansas visits Lexington on a two-game win streak after defeating Ole Miss, 71-58, in Fayetteville on Wednesday. The Razorbacks are 14-5 overall and 3-3 in SEC play, but have lost their three league games by a combined 10 points. Ronnie Brewer leads UA with 18.6 ppg and 4.9 rpg. Hes the SEC leader in steals (2.8 pg) as well. Jonathon Modica averages 14.1 ppg and 4.1 rpg, while Dontell Jefferson is tops in conference in assists, averaging 6.0 per game. Stan Heath is in his fourth season at Arkansas, holding a 53-52 record. SERIES HISTORY This is the 27th meeting between Kentucky and Arkansas, which joined the Southeastern Conference in 1994. UK has won five in a row, dating back to the 2001 SEC Tournament.
Kentucky is 8-2 against Arkansas in Lexington, including a 6-2 record against the Hogs in Rupp Arena. The teams last met in Lexington on Feb. 18, 2004, a 73-56 UK win. The first series meeting came on Dec. 18, 1945 - a 67-42 Kentucky win. Perhaps the greatest game in series history came in the finals of the 1995 SEC Tournament at Atlantas Georgia Dome, when third-ranked UK downed the fifth-ranked and eventual national champion Razorbacks, 95-93, in overtime. The Cats overcame a nine-point deficit in overtime to claim the win.
Tubby Smith is 11-9 against Arkansas in his career. At Tulsa, he was 0-5 against the Razorbacks. He was 2-1 against UA at Georgia and is 9-3 in his ninth season at Kentucky. Stan Heath is 0-4 against UK in his career, including an 82-68 loss to the Wildcats in 2001 while coaching Kent State. Heath also served as an assistant coach at Michigan State from 1997- 01. The Spartans were 1-2 against UK in that time. WILDCAT-RAZORBACK CONNECTIONS Arkansas assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro and UK sophomore Joe Crawford both hail from Detroit, Mich., site of next weekends Super Bowl. Taliaferro played at Detroit Mumford HS, while Crawford graduated from Renaissance in 2004. Taliaferro also coached Detroit Central High from 1997-2001 before moving on to Kent State to join Heaths first staff.
Arkansas junior Gary Ervin is sitting out this season after transferring from Mississippi State. The Brooklyn, NY native played two seasons for the Bulldogs, but went 0-2 against the Wildcats during that time. In his two games vs. UK, he totaled 16 points and six assists. GAME FOR LIFE The competition between Kentucky and Arkansas has already begun this week as the two schools compete in the Game for Life, a blood drive competition between UK and AU. Fans and students have the opportunity to donate blood for their respective school through Friday and whichever school collects more donations will receive a special trophy before Sundays game at Rupp Arena. Kentucky fans wishing to donate blood should do so at one of Central Kentucky Blood Centers four locations or through many various blood drives in the area this week. For more information, call 1-800-775-2522. TUBBY NEARS 300TH WILDCAT GAME Tubby Smith has coached 296 games as Kentuckys head coach. He will coach his 300th game from the Wildcat bench on Feb. 7, when Tennessee visits Rupp Arena. GO FIGURE Kentuckys well-documented shooting problems have placed the Wildcats last in the SEC with a .438 shooting percentage. However, in league play, UK moves up to third in the conference, shooting .468. That figure was bolstered by back-to-back 56 percent shooting outings against Georgia and South Carolina. The Cats are also third in rebounding margin (+3.6) in SEC play. SENIORS LEAD LONG-RANGE RESURGENCE Senior guards Patrick Sparks and Ravi Moss have ignited Kentuckys perimiter offense of late by connecting from long range. Since SEC play began, Sparks has gone 9-of-20 (.450) from threepoint land, while Moss is 10-of-21 (.476). Moss currently ranks second in the SEC for best threepoint percentage in league games. MORRIS SOLID SINCE RETURN Since returning from a 14-game suspension to begin the season, Randolph Morris has averaged 12.6 points and 4.2 rebounds. He has reached double figures in four of his five games while shooting 61 percent from the field and 79 percent (11-of-14) from the foul line. Morris returned to action in the Vanderbilt game on Jan. 10. Morris was originally told he would have to sit out the entire season after his NBA Draft exploration last summer, but the NCAA Student- Athlete Reinstatement staff revisited the decision and reinstated Morris eligibility with the condition that he be withheld from 50 percent of the season (14 games) and required to repay the impermissible expenses received.
NEW YEARS CATS
Kentucky owns an all-time record of 536-182 in the month of January, including a 292-52 record at home, a 216-123 road record and a 21-7 mark at neutral sites. So far this season, UK is 4-3 in January. In 2005, the Wildcats were 7-1 in the years first month. The only loss was to No. 2 Kansas, 65-59, on Jan. 9 in Lexington. CATS DROP FROM RANKINGS Kentucky dropped out of both polls after its 73- 46 loss at Kansas. It marks the first time UK has not been ranked in the AP poll since. Feb. 6, 2001. UK had previously appeared in 90-consecutive AP polls, the then-second longest streak in the nation. The Wildcats started the season ranked ninth in the AP poll and 10th in the coaches vote. They were ranked as high as seventh but saw that ranking fall as far as 23rd after the Dec. 10 loss to Indiana.
KENTUCKY VS. RANKED FOES
No. 4/4 Louisville was UKs fourth ranked opponent of the season. The Wildcats are 2-2 vs. ranked teams this year. UK fell to No. 18/17 Iowa on Nov. 21, defeated No. 13/13 West Virginia the following day, and lost to No. 18/16 Indiana Dec. 10. The win over Louisville was UKs first against a top-five opponent since handing No. 3 Florida a 69-67 loss on March 8, 2003. The Wildcats are 238-144 all-time against teams ranked in The Associated Press poll. THREE MANIA UK has the nations third-longest active streak of consecutive games with a made three-pointer. UK has hit a three-pointer in 594 consecutive games, which trails only UNLV and Vanderbilt. The Wildcats' last game without a three-pointer came 15 seasons ago against Seton Hall on Nov. 26, 1988, a three-point loss in the Great Alaska Shootout. UNLV and Vanderbilt have hit a three-pointer in every game since the three-point rule was adopted to start the 1986-87 season. The Rebels streak is 619 games, while Vanderbilts streak is 616 games. SEVERAL CATS PLAYING IN NBDL Three recent Wildcats are working hard to make it in professional basketball and are getting their start in the NBAs developmental league - the NBDL. Erik Daniels (2004) is currently seventh in the NBDL in scoring, averaging 18.2 ppg for the Fayetteville (NC) Patriots. UK teammate Cliff Hawkins also plays for the Patriots, averaging 6.3 ppg and 5.0 apg in nine games. The Fort Worth Flyers added Kelenna Azubuike to its roster in early December. Since then hes played in 17 games and is averaging 10.6 ppg. Chuck Hayes was leading the NBDL in rebounding before being signed by the Houston Rockets on Jan. 17.
The Wildcats continued blistering the nets against South Carolina on Jan. 21, shooting .559, just shy of the season-high .560 they shot at Georgia on Jan. 17.
UK made a season-best 33 field goals, its highest total since making 33 shots against Mississippi State last year in Lexington (2/19/05).
The Cats tied a season-high by making 12 three-pointers, and their .500 percentage was the highest since making 7-of-12 from long range against Cincinnati in the 2005 NCAA Second Round.
For the second-straight game, four Wildcats posted double-figure point totals.
Bobby Perry had an SEC career best with 13 points. ROCKIN RONDO Sophomore guard Rajon Rondo grabbed 19 rebounds against Iowa, the most by a Wildcat in 12 seasons and the most ever by a UK guard. Rondo has reached double-figure boards four times this season. Hes collected three doubledoubles on the year. Setting new highs has become commonplace this season for the sophomore from Louisville. He recorded his first career double-double (17 points and 12 rebounds to go with six assists and six steals) in the opener against South Dakota State. He scored a career-high 20 points against UNC.
MOST REBOUNDS BY A KENTUCKY GUARD Player Reb. 1. Rajon Rondo vs. Iowa (11/21/2005) 19 2. Louie Dampier vs. Georgia (1/25/1965) 16 3. Mike Casey vs. LSU (1/25/1969) 15 Louie Dampier vs. LSU (2/4/1967) 15 Frank Ramsey vs. Louisville (3/20/1951) 15 SMITH EARNS 350TH CAREER WIN UKs 73-61 victory over Louisville on Dec. 17 gave UK coach Tubby Smith his 350th career victory. With the win, he became the seventh coach - joining Roy Williams (Kansas), Nolan Richardson (Tulsa, Arkansas), Denny Crum (Louisville), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Rick Pitino (Boston, Providence and UK) and John Thompson (Georgetown) - to reach the 350-win mark in 15 seasons or less. RONDO ON WATCH LISTS Kentucky guard Rajon Rondo was named one of the top 50 candidates for both the 2005-06 Wooden Award All-America team, the 2006 John Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy. The Wooden list, which was voted on by a national panel, includes returning players only. This month, the Midseason Top 30 will be announced.
In January, the Naismith Trophy Board of Selectors will narrow its pre-season list to the Top 30 players in the nation. SPARKS HAS CLASS Kentucky guard Patrick Sparks is one of 30 nominees for the Senior CLASS Award, sponsored by Bayer Advantage. Sparks is one of two Southeastern Conference players on the list, which was announced Nov. 30. The award was launched during the 2001-02 season in response to the recent trend of college basketball players leaving school early to turn professional. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the award was developed to honor seniors for completing their collegiate athletic eligibility. UK's Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans, Gerald Fitch and Chuck Hayes have been past nominees. Last year's winner was Wayne Simien of Kansas. The nominee list will be trimmed to 10 finalists by a panel of national media in early February.
The winner will be announced by broadcaster Dick Enberg at the 2006 Final Four in Indianapolis, Ind. CATS AGAIN TIP OFF CBS SEASON CBS is celebrating its 25th season of covering college basketball, and the for the ninth time, UK opened the networks hoop season (Dec. 3 vs. North Carolina). Kentucky plays a nation-high eight times on CBS this season. PERRYS POINTS Junior forward Bobby Perry had a career game against Liberty on Nov. 25, dropping in 22 points and making three three-pointers. Perry surpassed his previous best of 12 points just 12 minutes into the game. He had 14 firsthalf points. The Durham, N.C., native had just set his previous career high with 12 points against Iowa on Nov. 21. UK IN SEC OPENERS With the loss to Vanderbilt, Kentucky fell to 56-17 all-time Southeastern Conference openers but has won 17 of its last 19 league debuts. Its only other loss during the stretch came in 2002 at Mississippi State, a 74-69 overtime defeat.
LAWRENCE LEFTOVERS Kentuckys 22-point halftime deficit (41-19) was its largest since Feb. 17, 1990, when Kentucky trailed Alabama 49-27 at the half, a game it lost 83-58. UKs 46 points were its fewest since scoring 45 against Michigan State on Dec. 16, 2000. The 27-point loss was the worst of the Tubby Smith era and only the second UK loss of more than 20 points under Smith. UKs .242 shooting was its lowest under Smith. The previous low was a .271 performance in a 52-50 win over UCLA on Dec. 6, 2003. No Kentucky player finished with double-figure points for the first time since Dec. 20, 1983 - a 24-11 win over Cincinnati. SEEING SPARKS Patrick Sparks caught fire in UKs 80-66 win over West Virginia on Nov. 22. The senior canned seven three-pointers (tying his career-high for threes made) en route to a 25-point performance. Overall, he was 8-of-13 from the field and added six assists in the victory. He earned all-tournament team honors for the Kansas City games in the Guardians Classic. NATIONAL PRESEASON HONORS Despite losing both its top scorer and top rebounder from a 28-6 performance in 2004-05, Kentucky racked up preseason honors and awards. The Wildcats were ranked as high as No. 3 in the country and were ranked in the top 10 by four national preview publications (The Sporting News, Athlon Sports, Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, CBS Sportsline.com, Street &Smiths and Lindys Basketball). Tubby Smith was named Street & Smiths Best Strategist. For a complete listing of the preseason awards, see page 12 of this release. SEC PREDICTIONS Kentucky was picked to win the Southeastern Conference title in a media vote at SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Ala., Oct. 27. Rajon Rondo was named a first-team All-SEC pick in both the media and coaches vote, while Patrick Sparks was dubbed a second-team selection by the leagues 12 head coaches. GUARDIANS CLASSIC WRAPUP The Kentucky Wildcats finished third in the 2005 Guardians Classic. After winning its opening round games at Rupp Arena over South Dakota State and Lipscomb, the Cats traveled to Kansas City, Mo., for the final rounds. There UK took its first loss of the season to Iowa, 67-63, after a poor shooting performance (.328). The Cats went on to defeat West Virginia, 80-66, in the tourneys consolation game for a third-place finish. Patrick Sparks was named to the all-tournament team following his 25-point, six-assist effort against the Mountaineers. Rajon Rondo was named most valuable player of the Lexington regional. He continued to shine in Kansas City, tallying 19 rebounds in the Iowa game - the most ever by a UK guard - and his second career double-double (15-10) vs. WVU. UNEXPECTED LOWS MOVE IN The Indiana loss provided several unnotables for Kentucky. They include: Kentuckys 53 points were the fewest by a Wildcat squad since scoring 53 against Florida in a 70-53 loss on March 13, 2005 in the SEC Tournament finals. Kentucky hit .311 from the field, its lowest shooting percentage of the season and the lowest since a .309 percent performance against Kansas on Jan. 9, 2005. Indiana shot .533 percent for the game, breaking UKs 31-game streak of holding its opponents below 50 percent shooting. UK has held 73 of its last 75 opponents below 50 percent. Kentucky hit only two three-pointers in the game. UK was 2-of-27 from the field for a .074 percent showing. That was UKs lowest percentage from long range since going 1-for-19 (.053) in a 2002 SEC Tournament quarterfinal loss to South Carolina. The 19 first-half points was UKs lowest output of the season and the fewest first-half points since trailing 29-16 at Ole Miss on Jan. 19, 2005, a game UK came back to win 53-50. The 26-point loss was Kentuckys largest since losing a Dec. 9, 1989 decision to Kansas, 150-95 in Lawrence. The 26-point win for the Hoosiers was their biggest in the history of the series. BIG BLUE MANIBIG BLUE MANIA KEIGHTLEY IN 45TH SEASON AT UK Incredible. Bill Keightley is in his 45th season as equipment manager of the UK basketball team. The beloved Mr. Wildcat began assisting in the equipment room during the 1961-62 season and since then, UK has played 1,383 games, owning a 1,064-319 (.769) record. Kentucky, which has fielded 103 teams, has played 2,507 games, meaning Keightley has played a role in 55.2% of the games. The Lawrenceburg, Ky., native, who has a jersey retired in the rafters of Rupp Arena, has worked under five different head coaches at UK - - Rupp, Hall, Sutton, Pitino and Smith. The current Cats have a modern nickname for the 79- year-old Keightley -- Smooth. SUPER FAN IN 53RD SEASON Big Blue fan Bob Wiggins, 77, continues his amazing streak of following the basketball Cats. The 2005-06 season is his 53rd watching Kentucky play in person and through his own record-keeping, he has attended 1,339 UK games. His home-court streak spans 44 years and 640 games. During that period, which dates back to 1960-61, UK has a home record of 567-72