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Russ Smith: Louisville’s Newest Living Legend

Louisville Cardinals’ coach, Rick Pitino, has been blessed the past several years with tremendous senior leadership.  In their 2011 – 2012 season in which the Cardinals finished 30 – 10 and advanced to the Final Four, Pitino relied on seniors Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric to help lead the way.

In the 2012 – 2013 season the Cardinals relied on two of the best leaders in Louisville history in Peyton Siva and Gorgiu Dieng.  All they did was help the Cardinals win their third National Championship defeating Michigan in the title game.

All great teams in any sport have at least one common denominator:  leadership.  That leadership starts with the coaching staff and bleeds down to the players.  The Cardinals would not have advanced to the 2012 Final Four without Chris Smith or Kuric.  They most likely would not have won the championship last year if not for the leadership of Siva and Dieng.

Perhaps none of these teams would have advanced as far as they did without the help of Russ Smith.  Smith will be one of four seniors honored Saturday against Connecticut on Senior Day along with Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese, and Tim Henderson.

Smith was not a heavily recruited player when he decided to commit to Louisville.  The Louisville media guide has several schools he also considered, but Pitino has often jokes that Smith has made up some of the schools he was being recruited by.  If not for the urging of former Assistant Head Coach, Ralph Willard, Smith might have never put on a Cardinals’ uniform.  As the story goes, Willard and Steve Masiello was sent to Smith’s prep school in Connecticut to recruit a South Kent player.  That player was not Smith.   Smith was so intent on going to Louisville he even tried to commit before he was even offered.

Willard and Masiello had to convince Pitino that Smith would be a perfect fit for the Cardinals’ up-tempo style of play.  At first, Pitino was not sure Smith was big enough to play in the extremely physical Big East.

Smith was a part of a recruiting class that included Gorgui Dieng.  This class was not even ranked by any of the major recruiting services.  Four years later this class would become a five-star class by many experts and most certainly Louisville fans.

Smith’s freshman year did not go well.  Injuries (broken foot, concussion, strained foot, sore knee) limited him to 17 games.  He averaged a little more than five minutes of playing time per game.  Smith was not happy with his injuries and lack of playing time that he called his mom and told her he was coming home.  He had a change of heart and decided to stay.  The Cardinals would finish the season with a 25 – 6 record.  They entered the NCAA tournament as a number 4 seed and were upset by Morehead State in the second round.

More playing time would be on the horizon for Smith’s sophomore campaign.  He made the most of it by averaging 11.5 points per game.  He was a spark off of the bench for the Cardinals for most of the season as he started only 7 games.  Smith and Siva made it extremely difficult for opposing guards to get the ball up the floor as the two combined for 151 steals.  Smith recorded a Louisville single-season record for steals, previously held by the great Darrell Griffith, with 87.  The record would last for only a year with Siva breaking it the next season.  The Cardinals would win the Big East tournament and advance to their second Final Four under Pitino where they were defeated by arch-rival Kentucky.  Louisville would finish the season with a 30 – 10 record.

Smith’s sophomore campaign also brought about one of the best nicknames in all of sports.  Pitino gave him the nickname, “Russdiculous”, for the crazy and sometimes unorthodox way he plays.  According to an article in Sports Illustrated, Pitino gave Russ the nickname in January of his sophomore season.  It happened during practice when Smith threw up one of his crazy shots.  Pitino yelled at Smith saying, “That shot was ridiculous!  Only you would take that shot!  That shot was…Russdiculous!”

Louisville came into the 2012 – 2013 season with a ton of potential and experience.  Could they feed off of the experience of getting so close the previous year and bring the first championship to Louisville since 1986?  They proved they had it as they brought home the title.

The chemistry on the championship team was phenomenal.  You hear fans talk about the chemistry and the love that team had for each other.  Fans also talk about who was most responsible for the title.  The title could not have been one without the steady play and leadership of Peyton Siva.  It could not have been one without the inside presence of Gorgui Dieng.  It could not have been one without the timely shooting of Luke Hancock.  The Cardinals needed the solid inside play of Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell.  It needed Tim Henderson’s two huge threes against Wichita State.  With that being said, the Cardinals most certainly would not have won the title without the play of Russ Smith.

Smith led the Cardinals in scoring with 18.7 points per game.  He combined with Siva for a total of 183 steals.  Their defensive pressure made it difficult for opposing guards to get the ball up the court.  He scored a Louisville record 134 points in six NCAA tournament games at times proving to be unguardable.

The only question after the National Championship was whether Smith would return to Louisville for his senior season.  Louisville fans would have supported his decisions no matter what it was.  The fans would be excited when he announced he wanted to come back for one more year.

Pitino told Smith he needed to become a better passer in his final year.  He needed to improve his outside shooting.  His shooting has improved dramatically as he has increased his overall field goal percentage from 41.4 to 46.8 percent.  His three point shooting has increased from 32.8 to 39.6 percent.  His passing has improved.  He leads the team in assists with 4.5 per game.

There is still more to be written in the college career of Russ Smith.  Will he lead his team to a third consecutive Final Four?  Will the Cardinals be the first team since Florida in 2006 – 2007 to win back-to-back titles?  Where will Smith rank on the all-time list of Cardinals’ greats?

Smith may or may not be a great NBA player in the future.  However, I would not bet against him.  He has proven everyone wrong his entire life.  Whether it was being lightly recruited, being a 2-star high school player, to almost transferring away from Louisville, Smith has put himself on the list of all-time greats at Louisville.  It is a list that includes the likes of Darrell Griffith, Wes Unseld, Charlie Tyra, Pervis Ellison, Rodney McCray, Junior Bridgeman, Dejuan Wheat, Milt Wagner, Derek Smith, etc.

Cardinals’ fans will miss Russ for many reasons.  We will miss his attitude.  It is an attitude that says ‘I cannot be stopped’, whether it is one-on-one or one-on three.  With Russ it really didn’t matter if it was him against the entire team.  We will miss that smile that only Russ has.  The smile that tells you everything is going to be okay.  And yes, we will miss “Russdiculous”.  It drove us crazy at times for four years, but the good outweighed the bad.  How many times have we yelled at the top of our lungs “RUSS!!!”?  I will miss yelling it and I have a feeling coach Pitino will miss it too.

I finish by saying thank you to Russ for so many great times over the past four years.  Thank you for being so likeable.  Don’t ever change who you are as that is what makes you so special.  Whether it is the NBA or not, you will be successful in whatever you do.  That is what makes you Louisville’s newest living legend.

15 will compete in state Poetry Out Loud championship

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s 15 high school Poetry Out Loud champions will compete March 13 for the title of state champion and the opportunity to represent the Commonwealth at the national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C.
The state finals, which are open to the public, will be Thursday, March 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT at the Capital Plaza Hotel, 405 Wilkinson Blvd., Frankfort, Ky. The program is coordinated by the Kentucky Arts Council.
“The Poetry Out Loud state competition is an exciting day for the school champions and their peers who travel to Frankfort,” said Lori Meadows, arts council executive director. “It really is inspiring to see how these students come alive when they are reciting poetry and how their classmates respond to their performances. Poetry Out Loud is an outstanding example of arts education at work.”
Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, starts at the classroom level. Winners advance to schoolwide competition, then to the state competition and ultimately to the national finals, April 29-30, in Washington, D.C.
School winners who will compete to represent Kentucky in the national finals are:

  • Titus Carter, Allen County Scottsville High School
  • Gabrielle Thompson, Boyd County High School
  • Trey Griffin, Butler Traditional High School, Jefferson County
  • Haley Sullivan, East Ridge High School, Pike County
  • Katelyn Taylor, Franklin County High School
  • Haley Reed, George Rogers Clark High School, Clark County
  • Haley Bryan, Grant County High School
  • Celeste Shearer, Hart County High School
  • Dorthea Acker-Hogg, Hazard High School, Perry County
  • Cayce Brockwell, Hickman County High School
  • Jodi Hooper, McCracken County High School
  • Cassie Gearles, Phelps Jr. and Sr. High School, Pike County
  • Taryn Syck, Pike County Central High School
  • Sydney Doose, South Warren High School, Warren County
  • Dove DeNigris, Western Hills High School, Franklin County

The winner of the state finals receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, D.C., to compete for the national championship. The state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up receives $100, with $200 going to his or her school library.
Since starting in 2006, Poetry Out Loud has grown to more than 365,000 students competing in 2011-12. For a general overview of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest visit
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.
The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, creates opportunities for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Kentucky Wins On Senior Night In Rupp

By: Tyrus York – Senior Night in Rupp Arena is a special time for Kentucky fans, players, and coaches.  On Tuesday, the #25/24 Kentucky Wildcats (22-8, 12-5) bid farewell to seniors Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson, two players that have been main-stays at this program for the last 4-5 years.

Jarod Polson - Senior Night - Photo by Steve Harp - East KY Media
Jarod Polson – Senior Night – Photo by Steve Harp – East KY Media

The Wildcats welcomed in an underperforming Alabama team (12-18, 6-11) that has struggled mightily this season.  Of course the Cats weren’t in much better shape recently coming off 2 straight losses, including a miserable performance at South Carolina.

Kentucky would rebound Tuesday night however and take care of business, defeating the Tide 55-48 in a sloppy battle between two teams that clearly weren’t on top of their game.

The offensive production from Kentucky has been putrid the last several games.  Against Alabama, they managed to shoot only 32.7% from the field and only 17.9% from three.  Defense kept the Cats in it holding their opponent to a season low 48 points.

Part of the outcome Tuesday was due to Alabama not being very good.  The other part was Kentucky’s ability lock down defensively when they had to and get the win.

Julius Randle led Kentucky as the only player to reach double digits in points or rebounds, going for 12 points and 11 rebounds to secure his 17th double-double of the season.

James Young and Dakari Johnson were your second leading scorers with 9 points each.  Young’s only make from the field was a 3 pointer with 4:10 to play that put Kentucky up by 6 points.  Before that 3, Young was 0-8 from the field with only 1 attempt coming from inside the 3 point line.

It upsets some fans to see Young firing shot attempts at will despite having an off night, but Coach Cal reminded the media after the game that if you don’t take the open shot then you’re not playing.  Young is a scorer and even though he had a tough night, he made the most important shot of the game to give Kentucky the victory.

Dakari Johnson continues to improve down low and has slowly become one of the most consistent players we have.  Game after game we see Dakari get a little more aggressive in the paint which will prove beneficial as Kentucky closes the season out at #1 Florida on Saturday.

Tuesday was a good win for the Cats who could not afford to drop a 3rd straight game including 2 in a row at home.  But the night belonged to Hood and Polson.

Both seniors received starting nods from Coach Cal and both took advantage early, each hitting a 3 pointer to give Kentucky their first 6 points of the game.

Kentucky locked up the #2 seed in the SEC tournament with the win against Alabama and will open the tournament on Friday March 14th.  But first, Kentucky has a date with #1 Florida at noon on Saturday in Gainesville where the Cats can possibly send a message to the nation that this young team is ready to grow up.

Louisville’s Newest 2014 Basketball Recruit

Louisville Cardinals’ coach, Rick Pitino, received a commitment Monday from a 7-foot-1 center, Anas Osama Mahmoud.  Mahmoud is a native of Egypt and has only been in the states since September of 2013.

Mahmoud is ranked No. 69 in the ESPN’s top 100 players for 2014.  He was one of only four unsigned top 100 players.

Mahmoud’s biggest weakness will be his strength as he weighs in at only 195 pounds.  He could possibly use next season as a redshirt to develop his strength as he will be one of two 7-footers for the Cardinals.  Incoming recruit, Matz Stockman, is the other 7-footer.  The Cardinals will also have Mangok Mathiang (6-foot-10) and incoming recruit Chinanu Onuaku (6-foot-10) making the Cardinals one of the tallest teams in the NCAA.

Pitino will love the versatility Mahmoud will give him.  Mahmoud has developed perimeter skills, as just a few years ago he was 6-foot-6 and playing guard.  He has range from the perimeter and can put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket.  At 7-foot-1 he will also give the Cardinals a much needed shot blocker they have been lacking since Gorgiu Dieng.

Louisville now has six commitments for the 2014 class.  The class is ranked as high as fifth.  The Cardinals’ class is a balanced one consisting of point guard Quentin Snider, small forward Shaqquan Aaron, power forward Jaylen Johnson, and centers Onuaku, Stockman, and now Mahmoud.

Ricky Len Fugate Obit

Ricky Len Fugate
Ricky Len Fugate

NAME                                                     Ricky Len Fugate

AGE                                                         47
ADDRESS                                                Jackson
DAY & DATE OF DEATH                       Tuesday,  February 25
PLACE OF DEATH                                  Pikeville Medical Center – Pikeville
WIFE                                                       Jessica Fugate – Jackson
FATHER                                                  Matthew and wife, Ann Fugate – Lost Creek
STEPFATHER                                          Mac Frazier – Noctor
SPECIAL DAUGHTER                             Ashley Nicole (Chris) Howard – Jackson
DAUGHTERS                                          Dianna Reed – Jackson
                                                                Marilee Strong – Jackson
SONS                                                      Glen Hensley – Jackson
                                                                Curtis Feltner – Jackson
                                                                Clarence Reed – Jackson
BROTHERS                                             Michael (Cassie) Fugate – Noctor
                                                                Kevin Fugate – Lost Creek
                                                                Justin Fugate – Lost Creek
SISTER                                                     Joyce (Ed) Miller – Jackson
SPECIAL CAT BROTHER                        Nub
SPECIAL NIECES                                     Crystal “Sprout” Kelly, Amber “Little B” Fugate, Angel Robinson,
                                                                Rebecca Sizemore, Hannah Bartley
SPECIAL NEPHEWS                               Michael Fugate Jr., J.T. Fugate, Hunter Sizemore, Charles Hensley,
                                                                Ethan Hensley, Zach Hensley, Trenton Sizemore, Thomas Bartley
GREAT NEPHEW                                    Bailey Kelly
GREAT NIECE                                         Taylor Kelly
SPECIAL FRIENDS                                  Maxine Back, Bridgette Kelly, Charlotte Howard, A.B. Howard,
                                                                Cecil Howard, Tommy Kilborn, Doyle Turner
MOTHER                                                Bertie Frazier
MATERNAL GRANDPARENTS              Charlie & Katie Gillum
PATERNAL GRANDPARENTS               Troy & Polly Fugate                                                                                                         
SERVICES                                                Friday, February 28, 12:00 PM
PLACE OF SERVICES                              Breathitt Funeral Home Chapel
OFFICIATING                                          Rev. Cecil Howard & Rev. James Neace                         
BURIAL                                                   Gillum Cemetery – Frozen
VISITATION                                            Thursday, February 27, 5:00PM
ADDITIONAL SERVICES Thursday, February 27, 7:00PM

UK Hoops Claim Victory on Senior Day

By: Tyrus York – On the always emotional Senior Day in Memorial Coliseum, the #12/15 UK Hoops team sent their 4 seniors off with a victory over Vanderbilt 65-63.

The emotions of Senior Day can sway teams in a good or bad way.  For the Wildcats, they used that emotion to get off to a great start, leading the Commodores by as many as 17 points in the first half.

That emotion would wear off and Vandy would regain the lead halfway through the second half.  From that point on, the two teams battled hard until Kentucky finally came out on top after junior guard Bria Goss ended the game on 5-6 shooting from the free throw line en route to her 12 points for the game.

Senior DeNesha Stalllworth made the best of her last official home game by dominating in the paint with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks.  Fellow senior Samarie Walker had only 2 points, but collected 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 block.

Kastine Evans, the third senior honored Sunday, had a respectable game with 5 points and 4 assists in 28 minutes of action.  Senior guard Bernisha Pinkett was in the starting lineup for the Cats and produced a rebound and an assist.

It was a rare game for the Cats to pick up the win despite being virtually even in the turnover column, 16 for Vandy and 15 for UK.  But Vandy was able to capitalize on Kentucky’s turnovers scoring 20 points from them while Kentucky only converted 14 points out of Vanderbilt’s turnovers.

The big story coming down the stretch to close out the regular season for UK Hoops was their ability to win 6 of their last 8 games and claim the coveted 4 seed in the SEC tournament which gives them a double bye.

It’s interesting how UK Hoop’s season has mirrored the men’s in that expectations were high but there have been several low points in the season.

The ladies however picked up huge conference wins as the season closed, defeating Tennessee in Knoxville and Texas A&M in College Station.

The Cats hope to carry their momentum into the SEC tournament which starts Wednesday in Duluth, Georgia.  Kentucky will play the winner of Florida and Missouri/Mississippi State on Friday at 2:30 pm.

The Power of Visualization

“Once our minds are ‘tattooed’ with negative thinking, our chances for long-term success diminish” John Maxwell 

When people talk to me about worries they have about the future, I notice they are constructing a picture in their minds of a difficult, painful or otherwise challenging situation.  The woman who is divorcing may picture herself as a bag lady forever living all alone.  Parents with preteens may dread the coming years as they visualize power struggles, attitude and worries about drugs and alcohol.  Someone facing a busy time at home or work may see themselves being stressed out, exhausted, and cranky.

When we engage in this kind of thinking we are actually programming ourselves to have negative experiences. We expect the worst, look for the worst, and sure enough, experience it as the worst, even if it is not quite that bad.

The problem here is that we make ourselves anxious or depressed long before the time we are dreading even comes. Sometimes it does not even come, and then we were all miserable and negative for nothing!  If we do this about many issues in our lives, we can make ourselves unhappy almost all the time. If we share these thoughts with others, we can drag them down into our unhappy state as well.

When we talk about visualization we usually think of it in a positive sense. For example, we may visualize the perfect golf swing, or see ourselves attracting abundance into our lives.  This can be a powerful process.

Unfortunately, negative visualization or programming often happens somewhat unconsciously. We are aware we of what we are thinking, but not conscious of the fact that we are creating a powerful visualization, but one with negative consequences.

If we tend to think this way about ourselves, we may inadvertently program others to think negatively of their futures.  A spouse or child may have an idea, and we tell them that will never work.  Just because we cannot envision a positive outcome for their idea does not mean they cannot.  Foisting our negative image onto them may cause them to begin to have doubt where before there was none.

There is that expression, “be careful what you ask for…” We need to add another one: “be careful how you picture your future.”  If you find yourself holding a negative image, stop yourself instantly and replace it with a positive one. You might just be surprised at what you create.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist.  For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit

Hope Wall on display at Breathitt Co. Judicial Center

JACKSON – Drug addiction is not the first thing that comes to mind when you first glance at the dozens of smiling faces displayed in the lobby of the Breathitt County Judicial Center.

Pictured next to the UNITE Hope Wall, from left, are Commonwealth Attorney Darrell Herald, Drug Court Coordinator Drema Terry, 39th Circuit Judge Frank A. Fletcher, UNITE President/CEO Dan Smoot, Jackson Police Chief Ken Spicer, and Jackson Police Officer Shawn Howard.  Photo by UNITE
Pictured next to the UNITE Hope Wall, from left, are Commonwealth Attorney Darrell Herald, Drug Court Coordinator Drema Terry, 39th Circuit Judge Frank A. Fletcher, UNITE President/CEO Dan Smoot, Jackson Police Chief Ken Spicer, and Jackson Police Officer Shawn Howard. Photo by UNITE

“You look at these people and you’d never know the struggles they have faced and overcome,” commented Drema Terry, Drug Court coordinator for the 39th Judicial Circuit, as she watched Operation UNITE’s Hope Wall being set up on February 28.

Unveiled last August, the 20-foot long wall features about 150 individuals who are now in recovery and living clean, sober lives. It demonstrates that substance abuse addiction has no boundaries, that all walks of life are affected.

“It illustrates the success that can be achieved through determination and persistence,” said Chief Circuit Judge Frank A. Fletcher. “The wall humanizes our neighbors and friends who have merely encountered a detour in life.”

Providing inspiration and encouragement to seek help for an addiction, or for those currently in treatment or recovery, is the primary reason for the Hope Wall.

“It represents a tremendous success in the lives of these people,” said Commonwealth Attorney Darrell Herald. “They’ve rebuilt their lives and their families. They’re now contributing to society instead of being a drain on it. That’s a great benefit.”

“A majority of the folks featured on the Hope Wall have received a UNITE Treatment Voucher to help them overcome their addiction,” noted Dan Smoot, UNITE president/CEO. “These are people who may have otherwise continued down a destructive path of drugs.”

“More than 3,300 people – including 74 Breathitt County residents – have entered a substance abuse treatment program using a UNITE voucher since the initiative began in 2005,” Smoot added.

Treatment vouchers for short-term or long-term residential treatment are available to low-income residents of the 32 counties served by UNITE across southern and eastern Kentucky. For more information call UNITE’s Treatment Help-Line at 1-866-908-6483

“This wall only represents a small percentage of the successes of the recovery efforts that we’re seeing,” said Terry, adding that drug addiction continues to have a huge impact throughout the region. “But,” she said, “when I look at this wall I see hope.”

“The Jackson Police Department has been with Operation UNITE from the very start,” commented Police Chief Ken Spicer. “Overcoming prescription drug abuse issues requires a coordinated effort, and I’m proud to have this wall in our community to show the success of UNITE’s treatment initiative.”

The wall will remain on display in Breathitt County through Friday morning, March 14.

Anyone who has been in recovery for at least 18 months is eligible to be featured on the wall. For more information contact the UNITE office at 606-330-1400 or visit

Cardinals Struggle Late, Fall to Memphis 72 – 66

The Louisville Cardinals and Memphis Tigers have one of the most intense conference rivalries in all of college basketball.  They have met on the hardwood 88 times with Louisville holding a 53 to 35 advantage.  Unless they meet in the upcoming AAC conference tournament, this could be the last time they meet as conference opponents.

The 7th-ranked Cardinals were poised to get a huge road win, only their second against a ranked team this season, win Montrezl Harrell’s emphatic dunk put Louisville ahead by eight with 4:47 remaining in the game.  However, Louisville would not make a field goal for the rest of the game.  Memphis closed the game on a 15 – 1 run.

Memphis came out strong to start the game, scoring the first six points.  The Tigers led 37 – 31 halftime lead while never trailing in the first half.

Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell did most of the scoring in the first half combining for 24 of the Cardinals’ 31 points.  The second half was much different for Smith as foul trouble limited him to four points.  Smith picked up his fourth foul with 8:36 remaining.

Harrell was dominant the entire game for the Cardinals, scoring a game-high 25 points and 12 rebounds.  He was not only dominant down low with five dunks, but also hit several jumpers including his first three of the year as the shot clock was expiring in the second half.

Louisville came in to this game with a seven game streak with fewer than 10 turnovers per game.  They were uncharacteristically turnover-prone as they finished with 14.

Chris Jones, in his return to his hometown, had one of his worst performances of the season.  Jones finished with three points on 1 of 10 shooting from the field.  He tallied only one assist, one game after passing for a season-high eight.

Memphis was led by Michael Dixon Jr.’s 18 points.  Dixon Jr. was a perfect 9 of 9 from the free throw line.  He was 5 for 5 from the line in the decisive 15 to 1 run to close the game.

Memphis’ senior guard, Chris Crawford, scored 12 points for the Tigers.  His perimeter shooting was instrumental in the win.  Crawford was 4 of 5 on his 3-pointers.  His last three, the biggest of the game, came after Louisville tied the game at 65.  Crawford hit a three from the top of the key to give Memphis the lead for good.

Louisville missed a golden opportunity to get another signature win on the road against a ranked team.  They defeated then No. 7 Cincinnati last Saturday.  The Cardinals travel to Texas to take on No. 23 SMU.  Louisville can play themselves into a much higher NCAA tournament seed by closing out the season on a strong note.

Disappointing Loss for the Cats

By: Tyrus York – Facing overtime for the second game in a row and for the second time against Arkansas (19-9, 8-7) this season, the #17/15 Kentucky Wildcats (21-7, 11-4) came up on the losing end, falling to the Razorbacks again, 71-67.

Julius Randle goes up for shot against Arkansas - Photo by Tammie Brown - East KY Media
Julius Randle goes up for shot against Arkansas – Photo by Tammie Brown – East KY Media

To be quite honest, Arkansas more than deserved to win the game.  Kentucky trailed for most of the contest before rallying on defense to turn a 14 point deficit into a 5 point lead late in the second half.

But Arkansas steadied and Kentucky went back to their old habits to fall short in the overtime.

When Kentucky loses, there seems to be one thing in common: disjointed or inconsistent guard play.  The majority of the Kentucky offense on Thursday seemed to consist of a guard driving the lane for a contested layup.  We’ve seen this work well in the past, but Arkansas was clearly expecting it and guarded it to near perfection for most of the game.

The obvious advantage for Kentucky was in the paint.  The Razorbacks had no answer for Willie Cauley-Stein who went for a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds.  Julius Randle was also a presence in the paint, gathering his own double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Kentucky outscored the Razorbacks 42-20 in the paint and out-rebounded the Hogs 47-38.  So what went wrong?

The rest of the team is what went wrong.  Andrew Harrison ended up with 14 points, but that was on 5-15 shooting from the field.  He would also record 3 assists, but they were negated by three turnovers.

Aaron Harrison had 8 points, but that was on 2-12 shooting.  His only makes from the field were a pair of threes.  Aaron coughed the ball up 4 times and recorded 0 assists.

James Young wasn’t much better although he did contribute 11 points he also turned the ball over 4 times to 3 assists.  His 4-12 shooting from the floor was the best of bunch.

The Wildcats as a team shot the ball at a 34.2% clip while Arkansas was slightly warmer at 41.4%.

The defense of Kentucky through a stretch late in the second half was the only bright spot for the Cats.  It gave incredible life to a Rupp Arena crowd that was desperately trying to will their team to victory, but it simply wasn’t enough.

Coach Cal contributed fatigue down the stretch as a main factor, which was maybe obvious when the team put up one of their worst performances of the season on the free throw line shooting 54.5% going 12-22.  Arkansas meanwhile was perfect from the line shooting 16-16.  Coincidentally that was the difference of game.

The win by Arkansas puts them back in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament, while the loss will likely knock Kentucky farther down the line in seeding.

It’s a short turnaround for Kentucky as they travel to Columbia, South Carolina to take on a pesky Gamecocks squad that is all but out of any post season consideration.  It will be a tough mental test Saturday for the Cats to see if they can get it back together before the final week of the regular season.

Kentucky and South Carolina tip off at 6 pm Saturday on ESPN.