By LARRY VAUGHT
Ten different Southeastern Conference players have scored 30 or more points in a game this season — and three of them play for Arkansas, the team UK plays Saturday afternoon looking for a road win.
Arkansas’ Moses Jones has a SEC-best 41-point game this season and Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe is known as a prolific scorer. But when Jimmy Whitt, an inside player, got 30 points in Arkansas’ win over Vanderbilt this week it surprised Vandy coach Jerry Steakhouse.
Whitt, a grad transfer is just 6-3 but shredded Vandy with dunks and midrange jumpers with the Commodors focused on stopping Jones and Joe. He also had eight rebounds, two blocks and one steal in 38 minutes in the 75-55 win that pushed Arkansas to 14-2 overall, 3-1 in the SEC going into Saturday’s game at 4 p.m. on ESPN.
“I think we obviously were coming into the game thinking about Isaiah Joe and Mason, but he (Whitt) did everything for them tonight. He rebounded the ball and every time the offense stalled any, he was the guys that was making big shots for them,” Stackhouse said of Whitt.
Kentucky coach John Calipari watched South Carolina make a lot of big shots the final 10 minutes to wipe out a 14-point deficit and beat his Cats 71-68 Wednesday on a buzzer-beating banked 3-pointer in Columbia.
“We know they’re going to come in fired up because they don’t want to drop two in a row,” Whitt said after Wednesday night’s game. “We know we’re going to have prepare for a dogfight, which we know it’s going to be.”
First-year Arkansas coach Eric Musselman knows it will take his team’s best game to beat UK.
“The only way that we are going to be able to play and compete with Kentucky is if we play our ‘A’ game. We can’t bring a ‘B plus’ game and expect to compete. We have to bring our ‘A plus’ game to compete with this team,” Musselman said after the Vandy win.
Arkansas, much like Alabama, will put up a lot of 3-pointers except the Hogs will shoot from even deeper. Joe hit four second half 3-pointers against Vanderbilt and Arkansas won without getting a field goal from Jones, who did have eight assists and seven rebounds.
“Certainly the 3-ball for us is pretty beneficial when you can get three instead of two,” Musselman said. “But anytime a defense focuses on something it opens something up for somebody else. I didn’t go into the game against Vanderbilt thinking Jimmy (Whitt) was going to take 20-plus shots.
“That was not anything on our play script. But he found open gaps against their zone. And they had a big guy on him and he (Whitt) was able to use his quickness. Sometimes you don’t now that what the flow of the game is going to be until you are kind of it.”