Karl Anthony-Towns hit Trey Lyles for an alley-oop eight seconds into the game and Kentucky was off and running from there.
From 1:55 left in the first half to 8:01 left in the second, Kentucky was simply on fire, going 18-23 from the field in that stretch. Arkansas played pretty solid defense for much of the first half, but the dam broke 18 minutes in as the Wildcats blew the game open. The Razorbacks struggled for much of the first half but still managed to cut Kentucky's lead to single digits a few minutes before halftime, but when Kentucky flipped their switch the lead surged to 31 during that run.
Arkansas did trim that lead down to the final margin of 17 points (a few more minutes and they may have covered the spread!), but the game was over by that point.
The Razorbacks' best chance was in the first half during a stretch when Kentucky only made 2 of 14 shots from the field, but Arkansas was having too much trouble scoring to make a real run. At times, the Wildcats' defense was overwhelming (that Willie Cauley-Stein block on a would be Alandise Harris dunk early in the game was brutal), and at times Arkansas just couldn't get anything to fall. The Hogs were 0-9 from three in the first half. Their fast break points and points off turnovers were minimal.
Michael Qualls led the Hogs with 17 points and 9 rebounds. Bobby Portis had 15 and 8. Harris had 12 points and Ky Madden had 11. But in the first half, only Portis had more than 5 points.
We knew for Arkansas to have any shot to win the game, the Hog shooters would have to have a big game. They did alright in the second half but were MIA in the first half. Anthlon Bell, who had a great game vs Texas A&M, went 0-5 from the field. Anton Beard only scored five points and fouled out - again - in 24 minutes. And, once again, Arkansas was 0-9 from three in the first half. The Hogs could only scrape together 37.5% shooting for the game.
It seems as though this season, any team will only have as much of a chance to beat Kentucky as the Wildcats give them. Arkansas missed some opportunities, but at no point in the game did it feel as though the Razorbacks had control. At Rupp, with the three-game losing streak, the Wildcats were plenty motivated and shut the door on Arkansas fairly quickly.
The good news for Arkansas, with this game being in Lexington and with Kentucky's undefeated record giving them lofty numbers in all ratings, just playing this game is likely to boost Arkansas' numbers more than a loss will drop them. The game boosts Arkansas' strength of schedule, which factors significantly into the team's RPI. We'll have to wait and see where the Hogs land on the latest bracket projections over the next few days, but I suspect it won't change much.
If Arkansas can take care of business this week against South Carolina and LSU, they'll be the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament and on the opposite side of the bracket from Kentucky. Since it's been so long since Arkansas won an SEC Tournament game, it may be foolish to think about a potential rematch in Nashville, but it could happen. If it does, hopefully the Hogs will get more opportunities being away from Rupp Arena and with the teams playing their third game in three days, and hopefully Arkansas will be able to convert more of them.
But even if that does happen, it will obviously be extremely difficult to pull off an upset over these guys.