FINAL: Kentucky survives Arkansas scare behind Rob Dillingham's 2nd half heroics

On3 imageby:Zack Geoghegan03/02/24

ZGeogheganKSR

Late in the second half on Saturday afternoon, Arkansas looked to be on the verge of pulling the biggest upset of its season. Then Rob Dillingham showed up…

Dillingham dropped 13 points in the second half — all coming within the final six minutes — for Kentucky, fueling the Wildcats’ second-half comeback down the stretch. His pick-and-roll chemistry with Zvonomir Ivisic, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, was unguardable. The end result was a 111-102 win for Kentucky (21-8; 11-5 SEC) over the Razorbacks (14-15; 5-11 SEC) inside Rupp Arena.

Dillingham finished with 15 for the game. Antonio Reeves led the way for Kentucky with 22 points while DJ Wagner added 19 points including four made three-pointers. Aaron Bradshaw also had a big game with 15 points and five rebounds in just 10 minutes. Justin Edwards and Reed Sheppard were the sixth and seventh Wildcats in double-figures with 10 points each.

Arkansas finished the game shooting 53 percent from the field, 40 percent from deep, and 27-28 from the free throw line. But it wasn’t enough to counter Kentucky’s shooting splits of 56.7/45/81. 54 of the Wildcats’ total points came off the bench.

Out of the gate, Arkansas couldn’t miss. The Razorbacks made their first six shots of the game to take an early 12-10 lead at the first media timeout — another slow defensive start for Kentucky. The hot shooting on both sides didn’t slow down the rest of the half either.

Reeves, who has a tendency to shine against Arkansas, didn’t need long to get himself in a rhythm. He dropped 14 points on 5-7 shooting before the intermission. Same with Wagner, who made three of his four shots from beyond the arc.

At the midway point of the first half, the game was still back-and-forth. Arkansas led by as many as four points with roughly three minutes until the break before the ‘Cats went on a much-needed run.

To close the first half, Kentucky rattled off a 15-6 stretch fueled by a pair of triples from Sheppard and seven points from Bradshaw, the latter scoring 12 in the first half. A small Arkansas lead suddenly shifted to an eight-point edge for the home. The Razorbacks drilled a shot from deep just before the half though, making it a 53-48 advantage for UK. Both teams were shooting over 50 percent from the floor at the break.

Kentucky looked to be on the verge of blowing the game open out of the locker room. Five points from Wagner plus a floater from Reeves put the ‘Cats ahead by 10 for the first time all night. But Arkansas immediately responded, going on an 8-1 run that forced UK to call a timeout. The Hogs even briefly retook the lead before Kentucky struck right back to go up by six, 70-64, with 13 minutes to go.

Arkansas went on another run from there, even going ahead by as many as nine points with under 10 minutes on the clock. Kentucky’s rickety defense was beginning to fall apart. Then Rob Dillingham decided it was time to step up. The freshman poured in nine points in a little over two minutes to put his team ahead 95-92 at the final media timeout.

Dillingham didn’t stop there. He and Ivisic continued to cook in the pick-and-roll with lob passes and finishes at the rim. Five straight made field goals for Kentucky pushed its lead to nine with just 60 ticks on the clock. That was all she wrote as the ‘Cats came away with the 111-102 victory.

Up next: Kentucky will return to Rupp Arena on Wednesday for Senior Night against the Vanderbilt Commodores (8-20; 3-12 SEC). Tipoff is set for 9:00 p.m. EST on the SEC Network.

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2024-04-22