Kentucky beat Arkansas with a slew of individual player runs

On3 imageby:Adam Stratton03/02/24

AdamStrattonKSR

We’ve had the Big Z game. The Edwards game. The Reed game. Several Rob games, though those too often ended in losses. But in Kentucky’s win over Arkansas on Saturday, just when you thought it was going to be a certain guy’s night, someone else stepped up and went on a run of their own.

The gauntlet of individual player bursts created a blistering dynamic the Razorbacks could not overcome. Just when they turned their attention to shutting the hot player down, someone else took over for the Wildcats.

It resulted in an astonishing seven players scoring in double figures, something that has only been done six times in Kentucky history and the first time since 2005. Let’s relive the individual segments as they developed throughout the game.

First Half | 20:00 to 10:00 | The DJ Wagner Segment

DJ Wagner worked his way out of a shooting slump against Alabama, making two of his four 3-point attempts after missing his previous 15 shots from behind the arc. He came out of the gate against Arkansas continuing to emerge from the long-distance doldrums, knocking down a trio of 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Wagner finished with 19 points on the afternoon, but it was his nine points in the first 10 minutes of the game that got him and the rest of the team rolling.

At the 10:00 mark in the first half, everyone’s Twitter thumbs were geared up to type out “The DJ Wagner game!” but that is when the next Kentucky player decided to shine.

First Half | 10:00 to 0:00 | The Aaron Bradshaw Segment

John Calipari has quite the luxury with a McDonalds All-American and potential first-round NBA draft pick as his third-string center. That’s the positive spin on the recent struggles from Aaron Bradshaw, but either way you slice it, Kentucky’s third seven-footer was due for a bust-out performance, and it came against Arkansas.

After entering the game midway through the first half, the big man went straight to work. His first basket was a tough dunk amidst traffic down low, and he followed that up with yet another physical and-one.

After a brief exit, he came back in at the end of the first half and got another and-one. Then he knocked down a 3-pointer the new-fashioned way and made three out of his four free throws, giving him 12 points in just seven minutes.

Bradshaw has played the role of cheerleader on the bench as of late, so it was great to see everyone else get hyped for his success this time.

Second Half | 20:00 to 8:00 | The No One Segment

This Kentucky team is one of the most fun groups to watch in years, but they are also prone to give Big Blue Nation a collective heart attack at any minute. After DJ Wagner knocked down this fourth 3-pointer of the game and a jumper early in the second half to give the ‘Cats a 10-point lead, the wheels kind of fell off, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Arkansas outscored the ‘Cats 36-17 over 10 minutes and turned a 10-point deficit into a nine-point lead. Kentucky was reeling and it looked like the team so capable of being a powerhouse was going to going to once again unplug and lose a winnable game at home.

Thankfully, Kentucky still had a few more individual player runs left in them.

Second Half | 8:00 to 6:30 | The Big Z Segment

It was a short one compared to the others on this list, but Zvonimir Ivisic‘s aggressiveness once his team was down nine helped turn the tide for Kentucky. In about a minute and a half, Big Z scored five points, had a block, and a rebound, helping to cut the Hogs’ lead down to just four.

It is worth noting that Big Z played well throughout the game, not just in this one segment. He secured five of his team-high nine rebounds in the final five minutes of the game, helping ensure Arkansas did not get any second-chance points. Sure, he gets lost sometimes, but when he plays in control and uses his 7-foot-2-inch frame to his advantage, he gives Kentucky a dynamic weapon on both sides of the court.

He also gets so excited every time he scores, you can’t help but smile right back at him.

Second Half | 6:30 to 2:00 | The Rob Dillingham Segment

If Rob Dillingham was a product for an infomercial, I can hear the late great Billy Mays now:

“Is your team down in the final minutes of the game? Do you think there’s no shot for them to come back? Well, do I have something for you. Meet the brand-new, electrifying gadget that will score points for your team in a hurry, Rob Dillingham. He’s shifty. He’s crafty. He’s even downright fun. We love Rob Dillingham and you will too.”

And unlike some of the products Mays used to hawk, Dillingham is the real deal. He turned on at the 6:30 mark and made the next five-ish minutes of the game his own as-seen-for-TV production. During this stretch, he either scored or assisted on 17 of Kentucky’s 18 points. More importantly, the game flipped definitively in Kentucky’s favor, as they jumped out to an eight-point lead and never relinquished it.

Second Half | 2:00 to 0:00 | The Justin Edwards Segment

The main reason Kentucky did not give up its lead in the last two minutes was Justin Edwards. It would have been easy for him to regress a bit after missing an easy layup and overall not playing his best game, but when Calipari subbed him in for Tre Mitchell, who was clearly a bit rusty after four games off, he played with the kind of confidence that will make him an NBA player one day.

This segment overlapped with Rob’s a bit, but in 50 seconds, Edwards had three steals. He then hit a tough lefty jumper and drained the dagger 3-pointer that erased any thought Arkansas may have had about mounting a last-minute comeback.

Edwards finished with 10 points for the game, half of which came in the final two minutes.

Most of the game | The Antonio Reeves Segment

It is crazy to say, but Kentucky’s leading scorer and All-American candidate didn’t exactly have a segment where he was awesome. Antonio Reeves just kind of does what he does and quietly pours in 20-plus points.

Even crazier, Calipari took him out of the game with about eight minutes to go and he never saw the court again. The group that was on the court was working, so Cal stuck with it.

And it worked. Kentucky erased a nine-point deficit to get the win with their leading scorer on the bench. Still, Reeves’ silent but deadly 22 points sure did help.

With this kind of scoring balance and an endless variety of effective lineup combinations, this Kentucky squad has been the definition of a team all year.

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2024-04-21