- Friday, March 10 2000 -
SEC Tournament (at Atlanta, GA)
Kentucky - 72 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 16th by AP]
|J. P. Blevins||26||0||3||0||2||1||2||0||0||0||2||3||0||0||1||1|
Arkansas - 86 (Head Coach: Nolan Richardson) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Arkansas 36, Kentucky 22
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Florida 85 - 70|||||St. Bonaventure 85 - 80 2 OT|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Jeff Drummond; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats fall in tourney
ATLANTA -- Two weeks ago when unranked Arkansas played to a hard-fought 60-55 loss at Kentucky, Razorback coach Nolan Richardson said he was looking forward to the day his young pups grew up and once again challenged the upper echelon of the Southeastern Conference.
On Friday, they became pit bulls.
Playing with a tenacious style reminiscent of their "40 minutes of hell" days, Arkansas stunned No. 16 Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. The Razorbacks converted 27 Wildcat turnovers into 33 points and scored almost at will against the Wildcats' vaunted defense en route to an 86-72 victory.
"Maybe it's time to get back to `40 minutes of hell,'" Richardson said. "Tonight seemed like a night to run the horses and they did a great job of running it. When you really get after folks and they turn it over, that's the difference in the game."
It marked Kentucky's first loss in the Georgia Dome in 14 appearances, Arkansas' first win over the Cats in the SEC Tourney and the third major upset of the day. In earlier action, No. 8 Tennessee and No. 11 Florida were eliminated by unranked South Carolina and slumping Auburn, respectively.
But the Kentucky loss may have been the biggest shocker.
The Cats made just six of 24 shots in the first half in falling behind 36-22. The deficit swelled to as much as 21 in the second half as Kentucky appeared helpless to counter Arkansas' quickness.
"I thought we just got beat by a team that showed a lot more quickness and a lot more aggressiveness," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "We couldn't hit shots and dug ourselves such a hole. I don't know if we were ready. I guess we weren't because we played so poorly to start the game."
Arkansas took advantage, racing to a 10-3 lead in the opening three minutes on five second-chance points and five straight by freshman forward Joe Johnson.
The hot start for Johnson, the SEC's freshman of the year, would prove ominous. A non-factor with just 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting in the loss at Rupp Arena, Johnson burned the Cats for a team-high 21 on this night, including 3-pointers, baseline jumpers and drives to the basket.
The Razorbacks also came out hot from 3-point range, getting a pair of treys from Teddy Gipson, one from Blake Eddins and another from Johnson in extending their lead to 27-11 at the 10:19 mark.
Kentucky scored the final six points of the half, but still trailed by 14.
The Cats showed an initial spark to open the second period, cutting the lead to nine (46-37) on a three-point play by Tayshaun Prince, but watched as Arkansas responded with a 14-2 run to reclaim the momentum. Kentucky surrendered an open 3 to Eddins and fouled Brandon Dean on a long shot to help dig its hole deeper.
"We played into their hands," Smith said. "We didn't take care of the basketball."
Arkansas went 5:31 with just one basket, but the Cats were unable to take advantage. Chris Walker scored eight points and Johnson added six down the stretch to seal the improbable victory.
Johnson led five Razorbacks in double figures, including Gipson (16), Walker (12), Dean (12) and Eddins (10). Arkansas shot 46 percent (31 of 68) against a UK defense holding SEC opponents to under 40 percent for the season and, despite playing at such a frenzied pace, committed just six turnovers.
Freshman guard Keith Bogans scored a game-high 25 points to pace Kentucky. The Cats also got 16 points and 13 points from senior center Jamaal Magloire and 15 points from Prince. Kentucky shot 39 percent (21 of 54) from the field to go along with its season-high 27 turnovers.
"We looked very lethargic, very scared," Smith said. "That's something we've been doing extremely well, taking care of the basketball, so you wonder what happened."
Arkansas (17-14) advances to face LSU in Saturday's semifinals. The Razorbacks will likely need to win the tournament in order to make the NCAA's field of 64. The other semifinal game will feature South Carolina and Auburn.
"That tells you this league is strong from top to bottom," Richardson said of the teams remaining in the tournament. "If you threw the ball up tomorrow to start the season, we might have nine teams tie for the title. It's gotten that close."
Kentucky (22-9) saw its hopes for a high NCAA seed fade. The Cats, which will likely drop to a No. 4 or 5 seed, must wait for Sunday's selection show to find out when and where their next game will be.
Tayshaun Prince stands over Arkansas' Blake Eddins