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Kentucky closes strong in win over Razorbacks

It’s not how you start but how you finish and Kentucky finished strong in an impressive 87-72 win at Arkansas Tuesday night at Bud Walton Arena.

The loss snapped the Razorbacks’ four-game winning streak and gave the Wildcats their second consecutive victory. Kentucky also moved one step closer toward securing a bye for next month’s Southeastern Conference Tournament in Saint Louis.

Kevin Knox led the Wildcats with 23 points, followed by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with 18. PJ Washington followed with 13 points, Vanderbilt added 11 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Quade Green knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 12 points. Washington completed a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Coming off an 81-71 win over Alabama last weekend, the Wildcats (19-9, 8-7 SEC) started off slow against Arkansas, but rallied to hand the Razorbacks their second home loss in 16 games.

Kentucky fell behind 11-0 and trailed 13-3 at one point in the first half. Kentucky battled back and tied the score at 43-43 at the break. That was the beginning of a successful comeback for the Wildcats as they outscored the hosts 44-29 in the second half.

”The thing I can’t do for these kids is there are experiences they’ve got to live that I cannot talk them through,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. ”When you’re playing all freshmen, there’s experiences they have to go through – one of them is being down 11-0 on the road to a team that was so hyped to play this game that it was crazy.”

Kentucky lost its three previous road games — at Missouri, Texas A&M and Auburn — during a rare four-game losing streak but ended the trend against the Razorbacks.

‘I don’t remember that (losing streak) at all,” Knox said. ”I just remember the last two weeks.”

The Wildcats got most of their scoring from the bench and outscored Arkansas 38-6. Kentucky forced nine turnovers, scoring 15 points off those miscues in transition.

Knox and Washington combined for 11 points in the first half and played a key role in helping the Wildcats overcome a slow start.

Arkansas guard Daryl Macon led all scorers with 26 points and tallied 19 of those in the first half. Macon connected on four of the Razorbacks’ nine shots from long range.

”It just seemed like we had some big lulls in the game,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ”The game came down to defensively we didn’t do a good job stopping them and we didn’t score, and sometimes that starts to affect your defense.”

Gametracker: Missouri at Kentucky, 8:15 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: ESPN, 98.1 FM, WBUL, Lexington.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today, Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21