Arkansas is one of the nation’s best teams when playing on their home court. They run an overwhelming, pressuring defense and feed off of the raucous Bud Walton Arena crowd. Kentucky struggles in road environments and has a point guard rotation make up of Ryan Harrow and former walk-on Jarrod Polson.
Did anyone really expect the Wildcats to win this game?
Now think about this: Arkansas forced UK into 18 turnovers, crushed the Wildcats on the offensive glass in the second half and took 69 shots from the floor to Kentucky’s 43. The Razorbacks did everything that we thought they would do, and Kentucky still managed to keep Mike Anderson’s club from running them out of the gym, losing 73-60. At one point, with Jon Hood and Polson both on the floor, Kentucky had a chance to cut what was a 16 point lead to single digits with two wide-open Julius Mays threes.
He missed them both, but that’s besides the point.
On an afternoon when Arkansas did everything that they want to do against a team that simply matched up horribly with them, the Razorbacks couldn’t run away late. Kentucky was never going to win this game, and they managed to lose while putting up a pretty good fight.
But at this point in the season, “moral victories” aren’t worth anything; real wins are, particularly when you’re a team that has a resume that desperately needs to be improved. Losing to a bubble team like Arkansas certainly doesn’t help in that department.
Kentucky’s far from dead in the water, but they no longer have a margin for error. Win at Georgia, beat Florida at home and then win a game in the SEC tournament, and they’ll have a good shot at getting in. Lose anyone of those games, and they’re going to be in trouble.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.
For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.
On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.
Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.
Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.
In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.
As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.
(More to come from Chapel Hill…)
North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.
(H/T: The Cauldron)