The Razorback men’s basketball team (15-5, 7-4 Southeastern Conference) defeated the Kentucky Wildcats (5-13, 4-7) for the first time since 2014 Tuesday in Lexington, Kentucky.
An Arkansas victory seemed bleak as the Hogs trailed 80-79 with just 12 seconds left after senior guard Davion Mintz hit a 3-pointer for the Wildcats. Immediately after the bucket, freshman guard Devo Davis took the inbound pass and sprinted into the lane, but he missed his layup.
Senior guard Jalen Tate — playing in front of family in his home state — grabbed the miss and was fouled on his putback attempt with 4.3 seconds to go. The veteran point guard sank both free throws to give the Hogs the lead and Davis intercepted the ball for the win before Kentucky could attempt a buzzer-beater.
“I told Jaylin Williams before Jalen Tate shot that second free throw, that I was going to get a steal,” Davis said in a postgame press conference. “I got the steal and I sealed it with a dunk.”
Arkansas has now won five straight SEC games and is in second place in the conference standings, behind Alabama.
“We have just been really locked in,” Tate said. “We have got to keep our head down and keep working.”
Tate led the Razorbacks with 15 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists.
“Ever since I committed to Arkansas, (my family) has been trying to get tickets to this game,” Tate said. “ I really just wanted to bring it home for all the friends and family I had in the crowd...everybody dreams of this moment.”
Davis finished the game with an emphatic dunk after the clock hit zero. Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said he has gained an immense amount of trust in the freshman. He has dialed up plays to get the ball in Davis’ hands with the game on the line in two of the previous three games.
“I told him to just take it to the cup (because) when he dribble-drives he always brings an extra defender,” Musselman said. “I never felt a sense of panic even at the very end or any stretch tonight.”
Davis was in complete control of the offense racking up three assists without turning the ball over. Despite the miss, he was pleased with his game-winning attempt, he said.
“I knew if I got it up, my teammates were going to be around the rim,” Davis said. “Jalen Tate had my back and he got fouled and knocked down the two free-throws.”
Kentucky trailed the majority of the competition but caught fire deep in the second half to take the lead. The Wildcats made a season-high 14 shots from behind the arc in the loss.
Musselman took the blame for his team’s soft 3-point defense and attributed it to part of the game plan against a Kentucky team that typically struggles from long-distance.
“Any criticism about them making 14 three-balls can be put squarely on my shoulders,” Musselman said.
The Razorbacks will look to continue their winning streak against the No.10 Missouri Tigers on Saturday, Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. in Columbia, Missouri. The game will be televised on ESPN2.