FAYETTEVILLE - ESPN telecast last Saturday night’s Arkansas vs. Kentucky game but it aired on Fox.
Sure to be one-and-done NBA bound Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox broadcast the biggest story of the game. Fox scored a career high 27 points and dealt six assists leading Coach John Calipari’s nationally No. 6 Wildcats to a 97-71 SEC rout of the Razorbacks.
The final score doesn’t reflect Kentucky only leading, 41-38 at half or the Razorbacks’ even as the game escaped them the final 20 minutes.
“We battled,” Anderson said. “Especially in the first half I thought we really battled. But they (the Wildcats) got that transition game going. Fox was outstanding for them. Fox did a good job of controlling the game.”
Arkansas got “outFoxed.”
“De’Aaron Fox is ridiculous,” Calipari said. “Do this every night, man. This is who you are.”
Point guards need help controlling the game. Fox got plenty.
Kentucky starters Isaiah Bruce, Malik Monk, and Edrice Adebayo scored 15, 12 and 11 points. Derek Willis, a rare Kentucky senior as it seems most of Calipari’s recruits are pro ball bound after a year or two, played huge off the bench. Willis scored 15 with 3 of 5 treys among his 6 of 8 from the field. His 19 minutes also include five rebounds and two blocked shots.
It tends to be forgotten, though not by Anderson, that Willis as a starter last season scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked four shots when Kentucky beat Arkansas, 80-66 at Walton Arena.
“Willis - the guy that keeps haunting us,” Anderson said. “Last year he haunted us at Bud Walton Arena and tonight he haunted us as well.”
The ghosts billed to haunt most didn’t much factor for either side in Lexington.
Arkansas media and fans attention riveted on Monk, the Lepanto native turned Bentonville High School All-American coveted by the Razorbacks but signing with Kentucky where he has starred.
Monk entered the game averaging a SEC leading 22.6 points, and averaged 30 for his previous two SEC games with a peak 47 scored against North Carolina.
So holding Monk, “ a hell of a player,” Anderson said, to 12 was Arkansas notable but obviously not enough with Fox on fire.
“It’s a team that’s more than just Malik,” Anderson repeated when repeatedly asked about Monk.
Meanwhile Calipari obviously was haunted by Dusty Hannahs, Arkansas’ senior guard scoring 20 on the Wildcats as a junior last season at Walton.
Kentucky’s defense in Lexington became Hannahs’ nightmare. He hit but 2 of 12 from the field, 0 for 5 on treys, and scored but six points.
However Arkansas’ prowess doesn’t stop with Hannahs.
Junior college transfer guards Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford scored 15 and 14 points and senior center Moses Kingsley scored 14.
Off the bench Barford scored all 14 in the first half keeping Arkansas on the Wildcats’ heels even with a first-half scoring drought from 8:04 to 4:01.
Trey Thompson, the 6-9 junior from Madison via Forrest City and Kingsley’s backup, finished with four points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots in 20 minutes.
“He (Barford) did play well in the first half,” Anderson said. “I thought Trey Thompson was big in that first half. He really helped the offense flow. I thought the bench gave us some quality minutes but you know Kentucky, they are going to make that run and you have got to be able to withstand it.”
The Hogs couldn’t withstand it against a superior team but it was not for lack of effort and some things they can learn.
Barford obviously got disconcerted with second-half foul trouble induced by a double-technical foul on himself and Fox. Barford, inadvertently, he said, stepped on Bruce when he got tangled as Bruce tried to take a charge.
Fox responded with a protective shove. Referees scurried to watch the review and deemed it a double technical but not worthy of ejection in either case.
Fox, spurred by the home crowd, kept starring.
Fourth-foul troubled and booed every time he touched the ball, Barford didn’t score again.
“For 20 minutes we played outstanding in a tough environment,” Anderson said. “Now we have to do it for longer periods. You are not going to play in a tougher environment than this. At the end of the day we will learn from it.”
They won’t have to learn about not backing down. Neither Arkansas nor Kentucky backed down an inch start to finish.
“Games are going to get heated,” Calipari said. “They're going to get testy. Look, Arkansas is a terrific team. They're 25 in the RPI. They've played well. They're a physical team, and so are we, and it got a little testy, but that's what it is.”
Arkansas’ next task is maintaining Kentucky game intensity hosting Mississippi State in Tuesday’s 8 p.m. SEC Network televised SEC game at Walton Arena.