Date story published: Monday, February 12, 1996
Tony Delk, Kentucky's Player of the Year candidate, made only one of his signature three-point shots in the first 29 minutes.
Antoine Walker, called "the key to our team" the day before, played only 19 minutes, 33 seconds. Or less than in any game since Iona in the Holiday Festival.
Walter McCarty and Derek Anderson, two seasoned
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players capable of stepping up, shot a combined 4-for-16.
Starting point guard Wayne Turner's zero-filled stat line included no points, no assists and two turnovers.
Kentucky in trouble?
Get real. Kentucky is deep like Barry White's voice. So what if the most often pushed buttons aren't working? You've still got a keyboard full of options.
All those "other" players enabled Kentucky to beat Arkansas 88-73 yesterday.
"They just wore us out," said freshman point guard Kareem Reid, the key to Arkansas' team. "Every time I turned around, it was like they had new people guarding me. It was like three or four different people guarding me. I was like, 'When are they going to stop?' "
Kentucky, which improved to 20-1 overall and 10-0 in the Southeastern Conference, couldn't afford to stop. Steadily improving Arkansas (14-8, 6-4) hung tough. The Hogs were within four points with fewer than six minutes left.
"You have to execute and make some shots to have a chance (of beating Kentucky), particularly on this floor," Arkansas Coach Nolan Richardson said. "But we'll fight you till the general's dead. I'm proud of that."
The general, Richardson, did not die. But the legs of his troops did. The Razorbacks made only one basket in the last 5:59.
"They were chasing us and I think everybody's legs went," Reid said. "They just use so many people. A lot of teams, they're six or seven guys deep. They use like 12 people. They bring in units. Like five at a time."
Backup point guard Anthony Epps continued his knack for meeting necessity with performance. He scored a career-high 17 points, none bigger than the three-pointer that eased Kentucky out to a 75-68 lead with 5:44 left.
"He always seems to play well against the Razorbacks," Richardson said of Epps. "It looks like he's been here about 153 years. Is he a senior yet?"
Told Epps is a junior, Richardson said, "Man, I'm getting tired of looking at that kid."
Epps led Kentucky's solid bench performance. The Cats' reserves scored only eight fewer points than the starters (48-40) while taking 15 fewer shots (44-29). With Mark Pope adding 11 points and matching a career high of 11 rebounds, the subs outscored Arkansas' reserves 40-24 and outrebounded them 17-11.
"Three of our best players really had off nights," UK Coach Rick Pitino said, "and we were still able to win. That speaks well of Arkansas and well for us."
As the struggles of Delk, who scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the final six minutes, and company attested, Arkansas' defensive plan worked reasonably well.
The Razorbacks also focused its offensive attack on Kentucky's most vulnerable spot: the low-post area.
Led by center Darnell "Tank" Robinson, Arkansas slowed the pace and directed the ball into the paint. "Our whole deal," Richardson said. The Razorbacks scored only one basket outside the paint in the first 17 minutes. The inside attack helped the Hogs score the game's first seven points and twice take first-half leads of 10 points.
"The way Rick plays the game, we play the same way," the Arkansas coach said. "The way you can beat a team like that is attack inside as well as you can and as quick as you can. The pressure (of the defense) is out on the perimeter."
So, Arkansas decided, "Let's get Tank inside immediately," Richardson said.
But Robinson, who missed 13 games because of a broken bone in his foot and didn't return until two weeks ago, wore down. Surely, it didn't help his stamina that Robinson at times had to bring the ball up against UK's pressure defense.
With fatigue setting in, rebounding became the last bullet in Arkansas' gun. The Hogs outrebounded Kentucky 28-16 in the first half.
"Coach had told us that if they beat us, the way they'd beat us is on the boards," McCarty said.
Some apparently hot Pitino rhetoric at halftime re-inforced that message. "Halftime was not a prayer meeting about the backboard," he said.
UK responded. The Cats, who didn't have an offensive rebound in their first nine possessions, outrebounded Arkansas 29-16 in the second half.
"We thought we had the game won," Arkansas freshman Derek Hood said. "But in the second half, we just couldn't keep up with them. With their depth, they were able to wear us out. Our legs just got tired."