The Kentucky Wildcats overcame an 18-point Arkansas lead Sunday to beat the Razorbacks for their fourth consecutive victory. The Wildcats needed their best half of play of the year (55 points) and some terrific play by Randolph Morris, Rajon Rondo, Ravi Moss, Sheray Thomas and Patrick Sparks to squeeze out the 78-76 win. Kentucky improved to 14-6 for the season (4-2 SEC).
It was a huge comeback and shows a lot of character on our team," said junior forward Bobby Perry, "It had to be a team effort today and it was. Randolph (Morris) took control of the boards and Pat (Sparks) kept his poise and was patient.
The Wildcats looked sluggish out of the gate. Neither team scored until the 17:23 mark of the first half when Morris broke the ice with a layup. But it was all Arkansas the rest of the half. The Razorbacks went on an 18-4 run over the next four minutes in route to building a commanding 33-15 lead on a Steven Hill layup at the 3:35 mark. Morris would score six of the Cats' final eight points, however, to keep Kentucky within striking distance at 35-23 at the half.
The Razorbacks would rebuild its lead to 16 early in the second half before Bobby Perry hit a two pointer that would begin a 43-21 Kentucky run. Coach Hobbs made the point that they had big leads on teams like UConn, but they gave up those leads," said center Randolph Morris, "We never wanted to back down. We wanted to come out and fight.
Moss hit a key three pointer at the 16:45 mark of the second half to cut the Arkansas lead to 10 and the Cats began to steadily chip away at the Razorback lead. Sophomore Joe Crawford cut the lead to 7 at 40-33 less than a minute later and then Patrick Sparks canned a long range shot to draw the Cats to within 6 at 42-36 at the 15:11 mark.
Still down by 6 at the 12:27 mark, Patrick Sparks and Sheray Thomas hit back to back jumpers to pull the Cats within just four points at 49-45.
"Coach Hobbs told us that Arkansas was coming into the game very confident," said Player of the Game Sheray Thomas, who went 4-5 from the field, including a critical three point shot at a time when Arkansas had extended its second half lead back to 10 points, "he really challenged the big guys to step up today and I think we did."
Kentucky took the lead for the first time since very early in the first half on a Rajon Rondo layup, followed by a Randolph Morris dunk. Adding a free throw, the Cats, once down by 18, held a 60-59 lead at the 6:01 mark, a lead the Cats would not give up the rest of the game. We had to wake up," said senior Ravi Moss, "There were a lot of minutes left in the game so we stayed fired up. We knew we were trying to get back in the hunt to win the SEC.
Randolph Morris would lead the way for Kentucky with 19 points on 8-12 shooting. Rondo would add 14 points for the Cats, who shot 50.8% from the field today.
The Wildcats move to 4-2 in the SEC, tied for 2nd place in the SEC East behind leader Tennessee. Next up for Kentucky is Mississippi State in Starkville, where the Bulldogs will be desparate for a win after dropping its fifth consecutive game on Saturday. Four of those six games were on the road. The game is Wednesday at 8:00 PM.