By Lizzie Hull
Kellan Grady and Davion Mintz, the stand-in backcourt duo for the Kentucky Wildcats combined for just three points in a 75-73 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville. The game marked the return of injured guards Tyty Washington and Sahvir Wheeler, who checked in at the 16:52 mark.
Arkansas, led by JD Notae with 30 points. snapped Kentucky’s 3-game win streak in Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks and Wildcats are now tied for second in the Southeastern Conference; both are 23-6 (12-4 SEC).
The Saturday matchup began just as the Wildcats’ previous four games, with a first half double-digit deficit thanks to a slow start. Despite the return of Washington and Wheeler, Kentucky failed to match Arkansas’ aggressive play.
“They were rusty to get started and then they got going,” coach John Calipari said of his returning players. “The way we started the game, it was just un-aggressiveness.”
Eventually there were 17 lead changes, although the Razorbacks led for almost all of the first 30 minutes. They followed Oscar Tshiebwe’s opening bucket with a 15-0 run.
After the Hogs’ outburst, Tshiebwe scored seven more, tallying the Wildcats’ first nine points. In fact, Tshiebwe would get his 23rd double-double in the first half alone, finishing the period with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Despite the rocky start, Kentucky went on a late first-half run and close the deficit to a manageable six points.
“I walked in at halftime and I was laughing,” said Calipari. “We are down six guys, 0-for-8, haven’t made a three. Think about how you personally played and we are down six.”
After cutting into the lead through the first five minutes of the second half, the Wildcats took their first lead at 41-40 with 14:53 to go, thanks to a fast break layup by Keion Brooks. He would finish with 14 points, joining Tshiebwe in double figures.
After Kentucky overcame the deficit, neither team could break away by more than a four point differential until the final seconds. With a little more than two minutes left to play, Kellan Grady scored his first field goal, a three-point basket to put the Wildcats ahead, 70-69. But he had limited touches all day.
“You have got to work harder than they are to stop you,” Calipari said.“We ran him on the baseline, we ran him on down screens. They worked harder. He couldn’t get a shot off.”
Jaylin Williams’ short hook shot with 1:22 remaining put Arkansas ahead 71-70 and his two free throws with 36 seconds left made the lead 73-70.
The Hogs hit two more free throws before Washington banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Tshiebwe added another 16 points and 6 rebounds in the second half, finishing with 30 points and 18 boards.
- His 23rd double-double of the season ranks second in the nation in that category. It’s the third-most in a single season in UK history.
- Tshiebwe has scored in double figures in 11 straight games, best at UK since Immanuel Quickley had a 20-game stretch during the 2019-20 season.
- The nation’s leading rebounder has 16 straight games with double-figure rebounds and grabbed double-figure boards in all but two games this season.
- It is his sixth game this season with 20 points and 15 rebounds, first Wildcat to do that since Jim Andrews had six 20-15 games in 1972-73.
- He now has 445 rebounds this season, moving past Frank Ramsey (434 in 1950-51) for fourth place on the UK single-season list.
The Wildcats will head home for their final home game of the season against the University of Mississippi Tuesday night.