FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In Bud Walton Arena, where the atmosphere was electric all night, the Razorback men’s basketball team was electric as well to upset the 22nd-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in overtime, 77-76, on Wednesday night. Sophomore Marshawn Powell and junior Rotnei Clarke combined for 48 of Arkansas’ points in the win as Arkansas got their first win against Kentucky since the 2000-01 season.
Arkansas (17-10, 6-7), not only stops their 10-game losing streak against Kentucky (19-8, 7-6), but also won their first overtime game of year after dropping the last three.
“I thought we competed extremely well tonight,” said Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey. “We made some great extra effort plays and I’m proud of our guys for their resiliency and their toughness. I thought our fans were unbelievable tonight. We played with spirit tonight and the ball bounced our way tonight.”
As much as the second half was a back and forth battle which saw the game tied eight times in the final 20 minutes, the Hogs continued to keep the momentum in their favor keeping deficits within striking distance. Clarke, who already had 21 points with four minutes to go and Arkansas down one, caught a pass at the top of the key and drained a three while being fouled by Deandre Liggins, giving the Hogs a huge three-point advantage. Clarke would get the free throw to follow and Arkansas the four point lead, their largest of the half.
Kentucky wouldn’t be finished, though. Even with time running out, the Wildcats got good possessions and key shots late to lead the game once more. With a minute left and the Razorbacks down two, sophomore Julysses Nobles worked around the Kentucky defense to find a hole in the lane and sink a game tying bucket with 30 seconds to go. Kentucky did have a chance for the final shot, but found nothing but iron as the buzzer sounded sending the game to overtime.
In the extra frame, both teams traded baskets in the first three minutes, giving Kentucky a two point lead, 74-72 with 2:15 to play. On the next possession, Nobles, again, hit the big shot, this time a three-pointer pushing the Hogs out in front. The Wildcats responded to re-take the lead by one on their next possession and were able to get the ball back with a minute to go, but an errant pass by Brandon Knight was then picked off by junior Jeff Peterson and the feed to senior Marcus Britt with the finish was the final shot Arkansas needed for the victory.
The 14,073 in attendance, second highest of the season, saw Arkansas put together one of their most complete games of the year. Along with his 26 points, Clarke tied his career high in free throws, going 11-for-12 from the charity stripe. Powell also had a double double on the night, his third of the season, after dropping 22 points and nabbing 10 rebounds. On the other side, Kentucky had four players in double-digit scoring. Knight led the way with 26 points, followed by Darius Miller with 13, Josh Harrellson who had 12, and Terrence Jones rounded it out with 10.
Early in the first half, the game had all the characteristics of what an Arkansas-Kentucky basketball should be. A fast-paced game with a lot of early scoring. Much of that scoring coming from the Razorbacks, who jumped out to an eight point lead within the first six minutes of the game. Clarke had the hot hand early, scoring eight points during that run, six of which came from behind the three-point line giving the Razorbacks a 17-9 advantage. Not only was the Hog offense on fire, but defense did its best to keep up the pace. Kentucky guard, Brandon Knight had seven of Kentucky’s first nine points, but the rest of the team was being held to 1-of-10 shooting.
As the half went on those hot hands started going cold for the Hogs and the Wildcat shooters started to get more comfortable. An 9-2 run by Kentucky over three minutes of play saw the Wildcats not only close the deficit, but actually take a one point lead with 4:23 to play. However, the Razorbacks did not let that last long as a layup by Nobles let the Hogs retake the lead for good in the first half. The lead would eventually grow to four before Kentucky got a last second buzzer beater to make it 34-32 Arkansas at halftime.
Both teams shot fairly even during the first half from the field, but the Arkansas big men were a force underneath the basket on the rebounding end. Powell and senior Delvon Johnson led the category with four each, but Arkansas as a team tallied 20 rebounds in the first half to one-up Kentucky, who finished with 19 as a team.
Clarke and Powell were the offensive forces in the first half also, scoring 24 of Arkansas’ points combined with both having 12 points each. Brandon Knight led Kentucky with nine points and was 3-of-7 from the field.
The men’s basketball team will be back on the court this Saturday to take on the Auburn Tigers in Auburn, Ala. The tip is slated for 12:30 p.m. and will be televised by the SEC Network and ESPN3.com. For all information regarding the Razorback men’s basketball team, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.