Who: Arkansas Razorback (14-2, 3-1 SEC) vs. #10 Kentucky Wildcats (12-4, 3-1 SEC)
What: Razorbacks to play in SOLD-OUT Bud Walton Arena for the second time this season.
When: Saturday – Jan. 18 – 3:00 pm
Where: Fayetteville, Ark. – Nolan Richardson Court at Bud Walton Arena
• TV: ESPN (Bob Wischusen, Dick Vitale and Kris Budden)
• CLICK HERE to Watch ESPN Online
• Radio: ESPN Arkansas 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home (Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman)
• CLICK HERE to listen on HitThatLine.com
• Sirius/XM: XM Channel 381, Streaming Online on channel 371
• Live Stats: www.Arkansas.StatBroadcast.com
You know Arkansas’ annual game with Kentucky is a big deal because the ESPN mother ship is coming to town with the top broadcasting crew and that includes a color commentator some thought retired years ago.
Assuming he doesn’t automatically end up somewhere in the ACC by accident.
Seriously, though, this is a big game for Eric Musselman in his first season mainly because, well, the Razorbacks and Wildcats are tied in the SEC standings.
Raise your hand if you saw that coming before the season. Forgive me, though, if I don’t wait around.
You can listen to the game on the radio with the TV sound muted at ESPN Arkansas 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home.
Online, you can listen to the game here at HitThatLine.com.
Kentucky coach John Calipari has been on record as being impressed with Musselman’s hiring since October after congratulating Jerry Jones, which may have been the first he’d heard of the Hogs’ new basketball coach.
He’s done nothing since then to give Arkansas any bulletin board material.
“They play really hard. They play rough,” Calipari said Friday. “They aren’t big but that doesn’t seem to hurt them on either end of the court. They have specific roles of what guys are going to do, what kind of shots they’re going to take and they do it.”
Musselman probably just shrugged when he heard that.
“Every game has got its own identity and comes up with its own theme the minute the refs throw the ball up,” he said Thursday afternoon.
Not for the fans, who have always approached the games with Kentucky at a fever pitch, regardless of the record or rankings.
The SEC let the Razorbacks in back in 1992 to give a different color to the league’s basketball tournament. In other words, somebody who could pose a challenge to Kentucky that had a color other than blue.
Exactly why a league that prides itself on marketing has, more or less, dropped the ball on that. You’d think they would figure out a way for that game to be played twice a year.
This one is big at this point of the schedule. Which actually has Musselman starting to sound a little like Nick Saban in his pregame speech.
“You prepare the same way, then your level of play shouldn’t fluctuate like a yo-yo, either,” he said. “You should be ready to play every night as a player, and as a coaching staff, you should have great preparation.”
Tell me if you just read those words you come up with several coaches that could be saying it.
Kentucky leads the all-time series, 32-11, but Arkansas is 7-7 versus the Wildcats at home. The last time Arkansas defeated Kentucky was a season-sweep in 2014.
First, the Razorbacks upset then-No. 13 Kentucky, 87-85, in overtime, on Jan. 14 thanks to a Michael Qualls dunk at the buzzer. A month later (Feb. 27) at Rupp Arena, Arkansas once again pulled out an overtime win to defeat then-No. 17 Kentucky, 71-67.
• Jimmy Whitt Jr., scored a career-high 30 points versus Vanderbilt to become the third Razorback to score at least 30 points this season. Mason Jones (41 vs Tulsa and 32 vs Rice) Isaiah Joe (34 Ole Miss • 33 TX Southern) were the others.
• Arkansas also had three players score at least 30 last season, including Daniel Gafford (32 vs LSU) • Mason Jones (30 vs Florida 30 vs Miss State) • Isaiah Joe (34 vs FIU).
Second half surge
• Isaiah Joe averages 18.6 minutes in the second half and Jimmy Whitt Jr., averages 18.4. Mason Jones follows at 16.4, followed by Desi Sills (14.6), Adrio Bailey (11.8) and Jalen Harris (10.4).
• Despite the extended minutes, Arkansas puts up better numbers in the second half: 1st HALF: 35.0 ppg • 43.9 FG% • 29.2 3PT% * 65.9 FT% • 64 steals; 2nd HALF 39.1 ppg • 45.68 FG% • 33.9 3PT% * 82.5 FT% • 77 steals
Razorbacks among NCAA winningest teams; best start since …
• Arkansas’ .875 win percentage is 14th-T in the NCAA.
• Arkansas is 1 of 15 teams in the NCAA with two or fewer losses.
• Arkansas is 14-2 overall for the first time since 1997-98. The ’97-98 team lost game 17 to fall to 14-3.
• Arkansas is 3-1 in SEC play for the first time since 2015-16. Arkansas will be looking for its first 4-1 in SEC play since opening 9-1 in league play in 1997-98.
No. 24 in NCAA NET, No 9 in RPI
• Arkansas’ NCAA NET remained 24th after a 75-55 win vs Vanderbilt.
• Arkansas’ NET is 2nd-best among SEC schools behind Auburn (13). Others of note: LSU (26), Kentucky (35), Alabama (44). Florida (48), Georgia (55).
• Arkansas’ NET of 24 is better than 6 teams ranked in the AP top 25.
• Arkansas has an RPI of 9, better than 16 teams ranked in the AP top 25.
Mason Jones is THE TEAM LEADER
• Mason Jones leads the Razorbacks in: Scoring (18.1) • Rebounding (6.1) • Assists (54) • Steals (29)
• Jones is THE ONLY PLAYER IN THE SEC to rank among the top 20 in scoring (3rd) and Rebounding (15th and also rank among the top 11 in steals (4th), 3-pointers made (8th), defensive rebounds (7th) and FG% (11th).
Putting Arkansas 3-point defense … or Joe’s success … in perspective
• Arkansas leads the NCAA in 3-point field goal defense as opponents have shot below 29% from long range 14 times. Overall, opponents are a combined 63-of-281 from long range (28.8%).
• Arkansas opponents have made 64 3-pointers in 281 attempts.
• Sophomore Isaiah Joe has made 63 3-pointers in 176 attempts.
Arkansas has best trio in SEC
Arkansas is the only team in the SEC to feature:
• Two players in the league’s top 5 for scoring — Mason Jones (3rd / 18.1) • Isaiah Joe (4th / 17.8)
• Three players in the league’s top 20 for scoring — Jimmy Whitt Jr. (13th / 14.8)
Isaiah Joe on Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Watch List
Arkansas sophomore Isaiah Joe was named to the 2020 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award watch list, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced today.
Fans can vote for their favorite player HERE.
Information, notes from Razorback Sports Communications included in this story.