Cats rout Hogs 101-70, stake claim to No. 1

jtipton@herald-leader.comJanuary 24, 2010 

If Kentucky didn't look like the No. 1 team in the country on Saturday, then Kentucky's in the wrong country.

After UK handed Arkansas its most lopsided defeat in 292 Southeastern Conference games, reserve Daniel Orton was asked if the Cats looked the part of the new No. 1 team in college basketball.

"I hope so," an incredulous Orton said. "I surely do hope so."

The vote to make it official will come after Kentucky's 101-70 victory made for a forgettable afternoon for one of its Unforgettables, Arkansas Coach John Pelphrey.

Kentucky (19-0 overall, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) led by as much as 46 as late as the 14:04 mark of the second half. UK's largest win over Arkansas remains a 37-point blowout in 1949 only because the Razorbacks kept competing.

Still, Coach John Calipari enjoyed the kind of tip-off-to-final-buzzer beating he'd been requesting. As an added sweetener, Calipari achieved his 65th straight league victory, dating back to Memphis' rule of Conference USA. That broke Adolph Rupp's national record of 64 set from 1945 to 1950.

"They hit a buzz saw today," Calipari said of the Razorbacks. "We would have done this to 360 teams, whoever we played, the way we played today."

Until this game, Kentucky usually got opponents down, then allowed them back within striking distance. Not this time. The Cats scored the game's first 10 points, then extended the lead. Of particular importance to Calipari, seven points in the final 1:21 of the first half put UK ahead 57-27 at halftime.

"If (the lead) went 23 to 16, all of a sudden they think they've got a chance, which is what we've done 10 times this year," the UK coach said. "When it goes from 23 to 30, now they know they have no chance."

When asked about his halftime rhetoric, Pelphrey noted the 30-point deficit as "not part of the game plan. We didn't have anything prepared for that."

Kentucky scored 100 points against an SEC team for the first time since a 106-44 victory over Vanderbilt on March 5, 2003. The Cats also posted their most lopsided victory over a league opponent since an 80-40 win against Mississippi on Feb . 22, 2006.

Darius Miller equaled a career high of four three-pointers in scoring a team-high 18. DeMarcus Cousins scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to post his 10th double-double, one shy of a UK record for a freshman.

John Wall added 16 points and Eric Bledsoe 10.

Arkansas (8-11, 1-3) seemingly had one hope to upset Kentucky. Sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke needed to make a pile of three-pointers. He missed his first six attempts and finished with 13 points.

Arkansas called three timeouts trying to stem the tide. The first with UK ahead 10-0, the second with the score 26-7 and the third with the Cats leading 50-23.

"That's all Eric and I were saying in the huddle: When we got a big lead, we were like do not let up, do not let up," Wall said. "... We want to keep the pressure on them and keep playing defense. We showed today we can keep extending our lead. If we learn to do that every game, it'll be tough to beat us."

Arkansas missed 13 of its first 15 shots en route to 23.1-percent accuracy in the first half. But the half was about effort, too. The crowd gave DeAndre Liggins a standing ovation when he dislodged the ball from a driving Courtney Fortson and then dived on it to save the possession.

Later, Daniel Orton blocked a Fortson drive (one of seven UK blocks in the half), a play that began a fast break that Perry Stevenson finished with a dunk.

Calipari noted the quest for No. 1 as a factor.

"You know, they wanted it bad," he said. "That's why they played that way. It was a pride thing."

Clarke made only one of six shots in the first half. He missed all four three-point attempts.

The nation's leader in three-pointers per game, Clarke made two three-pointers (equaling a personal low since Dec. 5) in nine attempts Saturday.

The second half brought no mercy from Kentucky nor relief for Pelphrey. UK scored the half's first 14 points, often in spectacular fashion. Cousins got the run started with an emphatic dunk. Then the crowd got juiced when Wall fired a fast-break lob that Bledsoe dunked.

Calipari's post-game comment to the team spoke volumes.

"I asked them, are we this good?" he said. "If we are, then this is going to be fun."

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