LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley had 18 points apiece as Kentucky spoiled the homecoming of Arkansas coach and former Wildcats standout John Pelphrey with a 63-58 victory over the Razorbacks Saturday.
Kentucky (15-10, 9-3) remained a perfect six-for-six in
Southeastern Conference home games and sits two games behind No. 2
Tennessee for the top record in the East. Arkansas (18-8, 7-5)
failed to make up ground on West-leading Mississippi State.
Pelphrey, a Kentucky native who was a fan favorite as a member
of Rick Pitino's "Unforgettables" team that lost to Christian
Laettner and Duke in the 1992 NCAA regional final, returned to Rupp
for the first time as a visiting head coach.
Moments after his players took the court to a scattering of
boos, Pelphrey, wearing a Razorback red tie, received a standing
ovation from the crowd as he made his entrance through the tunnel.
During team introductions, Pelphrey got an even more boisterous
reception, with his retired No. 34 from his Kentucky playing days
shown on the video screen.
And the Arkansas players nearly pulled this one out for their
Midway through the second half, Kentucky had trailed by as many
as 7 points, but the Wildcats clawed back to regain the lead down
First, a fade jumper by Crawford tied the game at 55-55 with
just over two minutes left. Then, another fade by Bradley a minute
later gave the Wildcats the lead for good.
During long stretches, it seemed the Razorbacks' only hope was
SEC player of the year candidate Sonny Weems, who had 26 points -
two shy of his career high.
Down 29-28 early in the second half, Arkansas regained the lead
with a 3-pointer by Weems, and he wasn't finished there. He chased
down a loose ball just before it bounced out of bounds, then
tiptoed the sideline and sprinted to the basket for a fastbreak
Kentucky won despite making just 39 percent of its shots. The
Wildcats dominated the rebounding battle 37-24 behind freshman
Patrick Patterson, who had 11 rebounds to go along with his 14
points for his sixth double-double of the season.
At several points in the game, the Wildcats found momentum - and
crowd support - when they needed it.
Kentucky trailed the first 13 minutes of the game and was behind
20-16 when Crawford nailed a 3 to cut the deficit to 1.
An Arkansas turnover on the ensuing inbound pass gave Kentucky
the ball right back. That's when Derrick Jasper gave Kentucky its
first lead with one of several ugly Kentucky shots on the afternoon
that went in.
Jasper's first jumper was blocked, but he caught the deflection
and heaved a prayer toward the basket while falling to the floor.
Not only did the shot go in, putting the Wildcats ahead 21-20, but
Jasper drew a foul from Vincent Hunter.
The free throw was no good, but the Rupp Arena crowd was
awakened and didn't seem to slumber again the rest of the game.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)