The SEC Tournament final has stymied Arkansas for a long time, save for the one amazing run in 2000. The Razorbacks are 1-6 in the game since joining the league in 1992 after coming up short against Kentucky on Sunday.
Let’s be real, all anyone is talking about are the hard fouls at the end of the game, which ended with Kingsley’s ejection.
Here’s the story as best I can tell:
- We all know the backstory with Malik Monk.
- Before the game, apparently former Arkansas assistant and current radio analyst Matt Zimmermann was talking to him before the game.
- During the game, Monk made a throat-slash gesture toward the Arkansas bench after hitting a shot. He was not called for a technical for it, and ESPN even used a photo of it as their postgame photo.
- Toward the end of the game, Hannahs was called for a flagrant 1 foul for a check against a UK player.
- Soon after, Kingsley was called for a flagrant 2 foul (which results in an ejection, but since Kingsley already had one technical early in the game, he’d have been gone anyway) against Fox for hitting him in the face with open hands as Fox attempted to drive against him.
So here’s my take on it. I don’t really care about these plays, to be honest. Hannahs wasn’t making a move for the head. It was a hard foul, but not one that warranted as much attention as it received.
I understand the Kingsley hit Fox in the face and earned his flagrant, but I don’t think Kingsley went out of his way to be overtly malicious. His hands remained open. He did not try to punch Fox. Kingsley jumped to defend and it initially looked like he was trying to make a block, but he hit Fox in the face. It wasn’t some sort of fight. It was not the Malice in the Palace.
I also don’t really care about throat-slashing and trash talk. The refs should have probably called a technical on Monk, but whatever. I don’t think it warrants hard fouls several game minutes later.
I like a lot of the physical play. I like that Arkansas and Kentucky don’t like each other. I wish the SEC would do more to promote it as a rivalry and allowed the two schools to play twice each year. I think the bad blood is good for SEC basketball. I also wish Arkansas could have played a better game and made it more competitive.
The only thing I don’t like is to see people trying to solely blame the other side for what happened. Monk’s throat-slash did not directly cause Kingsley to hit Fox in the face. Taunting from Arkansas’ bench did not mean Monk had to do anything. But they all happened. Live with it. Own it. And try again with new players in Bud Walton next year.
But also, there was actually a game that happened:
Arkansas played pretty even with the Wildcats for the first 13 minutes of the game, but the game started to become blown open before halftime. The last few minutes of the first half was brutal for the Hogs. De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk were on the bench with foul trouble, but Arkansas didn’t score at all in the last 3:34 of the half. Meanwhile, Kentucky drained three three-pointers in that span to head to the locker room up 12.
The Razorbacks never seriously threatened in the second half. They might have made it interesting but went scoreless for almost 7 minutes in the middle of the period. Kentucky pushed the lead to 19 with 7:34 to go and that was that. Arkansas went on a 15-5 run in the final few minutes and got within 9, but didn’t get closer.
Dusty Hannahs and Jaylen Barford finished with 27 combined points, which is right in their normal range, but they were too inefficient. They combined for 8-25 shooting from the floor, and five of those field goals came in the last 6:29 of the game. It took too long to get them going. Moses Kingsley had a miserable first half, going scoreless in 9 minutes with a completely unnecessary technical foul and a horribly lazy inbounds pass that gave Kentucky a free layup. He was much better in the second half, but the hole had been dug by that point.
Daryl Macon played the best for Arkansas today, he finished with 18 points and was named to the SEC All-Tournament team.
Now we get ready for this afternoon’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show. I predict Arkansas will be in the 8/9 game somewhere.