With a top-25 ranking for the first time since 2006, the Kentucky women's basketball team pulled in a ringer for some last-minute motivation Thursday night.
Recently retired football coach Rich Brooks, accompanied by wife Karen, received an honorary game ball just before the opening tip in Memorial Coliseum.
Surrounded by the Wildcats, Brooks said "that he wanted us to win," Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "He said, 'go get 'em!' He gave us a pre-game pep talk right there at half-court, so that was real special."
Brooks received a standing ovation from the crowd of 5,734, then he saw the Wildcats do as he had asked by putting a 69-52 beating on Arkansas.
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Victoria Dunlap led UK with 22 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Rebecca Gray came off the bench to score eight. Lydia Watkins had six, plus a team-best 12 rebounds.
UK (15-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) entered the rankings this week at No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll. Rather than show jitters, the cool Cats notched a 13th straight home-floor victory.
"I actually really forgot we were ranked and wasn't really thinking about it," said Dunlap, a 6-foot-1 junior. "There was no pressure."
"Not forgot," Dunlap said. "But it wasn't something like, 'Oh, my gosh, we're ranked so we've got to play hard.' "
Arkansas (8-11, 0-6) is winless in five road games.
Lyndsay Harris scored 10 points for the Razorbacks, but she also had 10 turnovers.
C'eira Rickets, a sophomore point guard out of Fairdale High School, had 12 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and four turnovers in 36 minutes.
"They play hard," Arkansas Coach Tom Collen, the former boss at Louisville, said of the Wildcats. "I think they're definitely worthy of their national ranking."
UK killed the Razorbacks inside and in transition.
The Cats had a 46-26 advantage in the paint, 27-4 on second-chance points and 49-37 in rebounds.
UK, ranked second nationally in turnover margin with an average 10 fewer than their opponents, matched that with 12 errors to Arkansas' 22.
"I thought the players came out with outstanding energy and effort and excellent mental focus," Mitchell said. "It's kind of tough to play Arkansas. They throw a lot of different looks at you, and you have to be in tune with what your responsibilities are.
"So I'm very proud of the team. We had a huge night on the boards, and plus-10 in the turnover category always means you're going to have a good night."
UK led all but the first 21/2 minutes.
Up 15-10, the Cats used a 9-0 run to lead by 14.
They stretched it to as many as 19 in the half and led 37-21 at intermission.
A 10-0 run early in the second half made it a 23-point game, 47-24.
Dunlap, who missed her first two free throws of the game, hit her last 10 chances. After a 1-for-8 effort from the field in the first half, she was 5-for-8 the rest of the way.
"I was rushing a lot in the first half, and I got a little frustrated towards the end of the first half," she said. "Then the coaches kept telling me to stay positive and just keep control of myself, and that I could make layups, and I finally did in the second half."
Arkansas was within 57-44 with eight minutes left. Then the Razorbacks, with no true point guard to back up Rickets, turned the ball over eight times in a four-minute span.
As Brooks had asked, the Cats got 'em.