The reasons to think Kentucky will rout Arkansas on Tuesday night include:
▪ UK has won 23 of its last 26 games. The three losses were by a combined five points (two of those points being LSU’s winning tip-in where basket interference was not called).
Arkansas has lost five in a row. It’s the longest losing streak of Mike Anderson’s eight seasons as coach. It’s also the longest Arkansas losing streak since the Hogs lost the last six games of the 2009-10 season when UK Unforgettable John Pelphrey was coach.
▪ If you’re into comparing scores, Kentucky routed Auburn 80-53 on Saturday. That equaled UK’s second-largest margin of victory over the Tigers since 1997.
Arkansas lost at Auburn 79-56 last Wednesday. That marked the Hogs’ second-largest loss to Auburn ever.
UK assistant coach Joel Justus, who substituted for John Calipari at Monday’s interview session, was asked if this stark difference might impact game preparation. That seemed plausible given how UK played two high-profile opponents in the previous 10 days (Tennessee and Auburn) and a third such game (at Tennessee) is coming up Saturday.
“Our preparation is the same as it’s been for Transy and IUP,” he said, referencing UK’s two exhibition opponents. “You have a little more information this time of year, so your preparation is actually more intense.”
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson suggested comparing scores was a poor way to assess an upcoming game.
“I think every game has its own characteristics,” he said. “A lot of people will compare scores. And, obviously, that’s what you’ve got. You’ve got stats in front of you. But when you go and play the game, it’s 0-0. And you hope you go and play some of your best basketball. One of your better games for 40 minutes. That’s my mindset. That’s going to be our team’s mindset.”
Youth vs. youth
Arkansas does not have a senior on its team. There is one junior on scholarship.
In terms of experience, stats maven Ken Pomeroy ranks Arkansas No. 341 out of 353 Division I teams. He ranks UK at No. 351.
‘He’s pretty good’
Reid Travis’ absence helps call attention to UK’s need to contain Arkansas “big” Daniel Gafford. In league games, the 6-foot-11 sophomore ranks among the top 10 SEC players in scoring (eighth at 15.8 ppg), rebounding (first at 8.9 rpg), shooting (first at 64.7 percent) and blocks (seventh at 1.6 bpg).
“I heard he’s pretty good,” EJ Montgomery said of Gafford. “It’s going to be a challenge. I just want to go out there and fight and compete.”
Justus said that timing in doing those things is important. “He’s a guy you’ve got to do your work before he gets the ball,” Justus said of Gafford.
Isaiah Joe has made 93 three-point shots, which is the record for an Arkansas freshman. It also ties Kentuckian Chris Lofton, who played for Tennessee, for the fourth most by a freshman on any SEC team.
Joe needs 10 more to tie Ole Miss’s Chris Warren, who made 103 three-pointers as a freshman in 2007-08.
With Kentucky ranked No. 4 in The Associated Press poll and in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, might Louisville as a regional site serve as a motivational tool?
“No,” Justus said. “I know Louisville is one (site) because everybody else is talking about it. . . . To be honest, we have not discussed that one bit. And Coach Cal has not discussed it one bit with our guys.
“And you could probably ask them. They probably don’t know how many teams are in the NCAA Tournament.”
When asked how many teams play in the NCAA Tournament, Montgomery answered correctly: 68.
“It’d be a good possibility to have a home crowd, a home-crowd advantage,” Montgomery said of UK playing in Louisville. “But, you know, we’re still going to go out there and compete.”
Justus said that one reason he knows about Louisville as an NCAA Tournament site is because of the reading he does on the Internet and Twitter. As Donald Trump might tweet, sad.
When asked how much time he spends on Twitter, Justus said, “Too much. Way too much. Twitter and probably tennis shoes, these are my two vices.”
Justus said gaining Calipari as a Twitter follower was a personal highlight.
Justus denied that he tweets for Calipari. “But I’ve taken a lot of pictures,” he said.
Karl Ravech, Jimmy Dykes and sideline reporter Laura Rutledge will call the game for the SEC Network.