By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky answered coach John Calipari getting ejected in the second half with a 15-0 run at Arkansas Saturday to beat the Razorbacks 73-66 after almost blowing a double-digit lead on the road like they had done at South Carolina on Wednesday.
Calipari got upset after an illegal screen was called on EJ Montgomery with 8:19 to play — UK had eight points in 12 minutes in the second half and the Hogs had shot 15 free throws to none for UK when the ejection came. The way UK responded made it almost seem like the coach got ejected on purpose — something ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said he didn’t believe Calipari did.
Neither did Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne.
“I seriously doubt it,” Payne said when asked about Calipari getting ejected on purpose. “If he had, I wish he would’ve given me a head’s up.”
Arkansas had a 47-44 lead after completing a 13-2 run after making the free throws after Calipari’s technicals. Yet the Cats came storming back even though point guard Ashton Hagans had to engineer UK’s 15-0 run playing with four fouls after getting his third and fourth fouls in a 27-second span early in the second half
“I think it was a huge mountain (to climb),” Payne said about the significance of the road win.
Kentucky had a lot of players contribute to the win in a variety of ways.
— Nick Richards led the scoring with 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting and also had nine rebounds and two blocks.
— Hagans was 3-for-10 from the field at one point but then made the only other shot he took and knocked down three free throws to finish with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
— Immanuel Quickley had a rare off game shooting — he was 3-for-14 overall and 1-for-5 from 3-point range — but had 13 points (he was 6-for-7 at the foul line) and 10 rebounds for his first double-double at UK. He played all 40 minutes and had just two turnovers.
He went on Twitter immediately after the game to proclaim it a “Big Win” and who could argue with the way the game unfolded.
— Tyrese Maxey got consecutive key goals in the second half and had 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block.
— Keion Brooks Jr. came off the bench to add 10 needed points on 3-for-4 shooting from the field and 4-for-6 at the line along with seven rebounds, one block and one steal in 17 minutes.
“I just wanted to come in and bring some energy and bring a spark off the bench. Coach loves it when someone is out there doing the dirty work. I am just going to embrace it,” Brooks said.
Kentucky outrebounded the Hogs 27-10 in the first half and also went 4-for-7 from 3-point range to take a 36-27 halftime lead despite early foul trouble by Maxey (two fouls in first seven minutes) and EJ Montgomery that limited them to a combined 19 minutes.
The Cats got a big lift from Johnny Juzang who hit a 3-pointer and 15-foot jumper and also got a rebound in his 10 minutes and Brooks who followed Juzang’s only miss with an athletic follow shot. Juzang had just seven field goals in 13 games and only once — against UAB on Nov. 29 — had two field goals in a game.
Quickley had six rebounds in the first eight minutes — including following his own miss twice to score — and seven overall while Richards had eight points and six rebounds.
The Razorbacks went 6-for-8 from 3-point range but just 3-for-15 on other shots and also missed five of eight free throws.