LEXINGTON, Ky. — Arkansas spotted another team an early lead and the Razorbacks struggled shooting the ball as No. 9 Kentucky handled the Hogs Wednesday, 73-56.
The loss drops Arkansas below the .500 mark for the first time this season at 11-12 overall and 3-9 in the Southeastern Conference. Kentucky improves to 18-4 and 8-3.
Arkansas made just 20 of 54 shots, shooting 29 percent (9-31) in the first half in falling behind 34-23 at the break and 47.8 percent (11-23) in the second period to finish at 37 for the game.
The Wildcats shot 57.4 percent for the game (27-47), including 56.5 percent in the first half (13-23) and 58.3 percent in the second (14-24).
Kentucky had just a 32-30 rebounding edge and each team made 13 free throws, but UK was six of 13 on three-pointers while Arkansas was three of 16, and the Wildcats had 21 assists with 13 turnovers while Arkansas had six assists with 14 turnovers.
Kentucky scored the first nine points of the game less than two minutes in with seven of those coming from Kelenna Azubuike, but Eric Ferguson went on a 7-0 run by himself and his three-pointer at the 15:20 mark got the Razorbacks within 9-7. Another Ferguson three pulled the Hogs within 11-10 with 13:27 to go, but that’s as close as Arkansas would get. Cliff Hawkins made a three and Erik Daniels scored to give Kentucky a 16-10 lead.
Olu Famutimi’s dunk off an offensive rebound cut the deficit to four and Arkansas had chances to get closer but couldn’t capitalize as UK gradually stretched the lead to 25-12. Matt Jones and Jonathon Modica hit consecutive shots each to pull Arkansas within 27-20 and UA was within 29-21 with 3:56 left in the period on a Ronnie Brewer free throw, but again the Razorbacks missed on several opportunities to get closer.
Bobby Perry hit two free throws and then a three-pointer over a one-minute stretch to give UK its 11-point lead at the half.
Arkansas was within nine twice early in the second period, but a dunk by Chuck Hayes put UK ahead 38-27 with 18:11 remaining and the Wildcats maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way. UA cut a 16-point margin to 50-38 on a three by Kendrick Davis, but Gerald Fitch hit two free throws and then a three over the next 25 seconds to extend the lead to 17.
Daniels made 10 of 13 shots for UK and scored a game-high 21 points. Azubuike had 12 points. Hawkins had five points, five rebounds and 11 assists with only one turnover.
Modica led Arkansas with 14 points, but he made just five of 15 shots. Ferguson had 12 points and Brewer nine. Matt Jones had four points and a game-high nine rebounds.
The Razorbacks play host to No. 25 South Carolina, their third straight game against a ranked opponent, on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. in a non-televised contest.