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Big Blue Links: Reviewing Kentucky basketball’s win over Arkansas

Kentucky Wildcats forward Derek Willis (35) scored inside as Kentucky played Arkansas on Thursday January 21, 2016 in Fayetteville, AR.
Kentucky Wildcats forward Derek Willis (35) scored inside as Kentucky played Arkansas on Thursday January 21, 2016 in Fayetteville, AR. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Friday:

Kentucky’s bigs come up big in win at Arkansas, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “Kentucky’s much-maligned front court led the way, especially in the first half. Meanwhile UK’s star guards scored points, but were anything but efficient. Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe and Ulis combined to make 12 of 35 shots. Ulis led UK with 24, a total built upon a career-high 14 made free throws in a career-high 15 attempts. Murray added 19 points.”

Wildcats cruise past the Hogs, reports Andrew Hutchinson of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “If there was any momentum left from the last time Arkansas played Kentucky in Fayetteville, it disappeared quickly Thursday night. Two years after the Razorbacks beat them on Michael Qualls' buzzer-beating dunk, they led for just 28 seconds and lost 80-66 to the No. 23 Wildcats.”

Did UK find a frontline? asks Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. “Willis, starting in place of Marcus Lee after recording a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) at Auburn, backed that performance up with 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Labissiere, pressed into vital playing time by foul trouble to Lee and Alex Poythress, had 11 points and three blocked shots.”

Ugly and uninspired, Arkansas falls, reports Eric Bolin of the Arkansas News. “It was almost never pretty, even from the winner’s perspective, but it was a means to an end. Kentucky bothered Arkansas long enough, for the better part of 40 minutes, in beating the Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena, 80-66. The loss moves Arkansas (9-9, 3-3) into a tie for seventh in the Southeastern Conference and lifts Kentucky (14-4, 4-2) into a tie for third.”

Ole Miss women shock UK, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. “The Rebels snapped a four-game losing streak and earned their first victory at the Pavilion in a big way, 73-65 over ninth-ranked Kentucky on Thursday night. Forward Shequila Joseph, who came into the game with just 11 made three-pointers all season, had five makes in the victory and finished with a career-high tying 21 points in the win, the Rebs’ second straight over the Cats in Oxford.”

Ole Miss bounces back in a big way, reports AP. “Mississippi's past two weeks had basically been a disaster. The Rebels were getting blown out repeatedly and four straight losses threatened to bury the program in the Southeastern Conference standings before the season got started. But Ole Miss bounced back in a big way on Thursday night, thanks to a 73-65 upset win over No. 9 Kentucky. The Rebels led for nearly the entire game and held off a final Kentucky charge in the fourth quarter.”

Unusual suspects lead UK men to win, reports Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. “Derek Willis makes us a better team,” Calipari said, “and we gotta put people on the bench and get him his minutes. He earned it. I didn’t give it to him. He earned it with how he played at Auburn, then he earned it in two days of practice. He was the leading rebounder in two days of practice.”

Cats smoke the Hogs, writes Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause. “UK's second-half lead never dipped below 10 and grew as high as 18 on multiple occasions. The Cats benefitted from 16 offensive rebounds and 19 second chance points on the night and held the Hogs, league's best three-point field goal percentage team, to 2-of-12 shooting from behind the arc. Kentucky won the rebounding battle 43-34.”

Kentucky shows up for the fight, writes Myron Medcalf of espn.com. “But there Labissiere was Thursday in Fayetteville, Arkansas, throwing his cornstalk frame around the paint. Bumping defenders. Challenging shots (three blocks). Flushing a dunk in the second half, which yielded a scream that sounded like in-game therapy: I know I can do this!”

Willis, Labissiere lead UK to road win, reports Metz Camfield of coachcal.com. ““I’m trying to figure out this team and I’m trying to figure out individuals,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “So, in my genius ways I’m trying to post (Labissiere) up and make him – maybe he’s a jump-shooting big man. So let him shoot jump shots. … So that’s not on him, that’s on me.

UK’s Sha’Keela Saunders is taking flight, reports Megan O’Brien of the Herald-Leader. “It’s a long way from now until this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil, but if anyone is capable of jumping ahead, it’s Sha’Keela Saunders. Saunders, a junior at the University of Kentucky, soared 21 feet, 6.25 inches during the long jump event at the Hoosier Open in December, setting a meet record and an indoor personal best. The leap exceeded her second-place jump in last year’s NCAA Indoor Championships by an inch.”

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