LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky has moved past its buzzer-beating loss to South Carolina earlier this week and looking ahead to Saturday’s contest at Arkansas.
“(You) can’t let that energy, that loss, sit too long,” Kentucky guard Johny Juzang said Friday. "You’ve got to get ready for the next one. So, it’s a fresh game and you’ve just got to go out there and compete and learn from our mistakes.”
Although the last-second setback was "demoralizing" at the time, freshman Keion Brooks agreed with Juzang that Kentucky can’t dwell on a loss that ended a four-game winning streak.
“We still have a lot of season left. We got a lot of stuff we need to work on and we know we’re not where we’re supposed to be. So we have something to look forward to. Our team morale and our chemistry is still great. We’re still upbeat and we’re just looking forward to going up there tomorrow and kind of getting some get-back.”
The Wildcats will face an Arkansas team that has thrived under first-year Arkansas coach Eric Musselman. The Razorbacks (14-2, 3-1) are coming off a 75-55 win over Vanderbilt and are 10-0 at home this season. Arkansas has lost seven straight games to the Wildcats, including a 70-66 setback a year ago at Rupp Arena. Immanuel Quickley made two free throws in the final seconds to send the Wildcats to the narrow win.
“The team that we’re playing, Arkansas, you know, they play really hard,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “They play rough. They’re not big but it doesn’t seem to hurt them on either end of the court, and they have specific roles of what guys are going to do, what kinds of shots they’re going to take, and they do it.”
Calipari isn’t surprised by Musselman’s early success with the Razorbacks.
“I am so happy for coach Muss at Arkansas,” he said. “I saw (Dallas Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones in the box when Arkansas played up here (for football) and I said, ‘You guys have no idea what kind of coach you got. This guy is as good as they get.’ I’ve coached against him in FIBA. I watched him in the NBA. And all of a sudden, they come out of the gate.”
Calipari’s biggest concern following the loss to the Gamecocks was his team’s defensive rebounding. South Carolina managed 20 offensive rebounds and scored 56 points in the second half.
“It’s been a big focus,” he said. “We pride ourselves on defense and being physical and these last two games we’ve kind of slipped in that area. We just gotta take a better approach of hitting a man first, not shying away from contact and at the point of attack being aggressive and going and getting the rebound.”
Calipari was pleased with Juzang’s effort in the loss. Juzang missed the previous three games because of an illness, but managed two points and five rebounds in eight minutes.
“He had the courage to go get it and go again,” Calipari said. “(The) second thing Johnny did is in eight minutes he got five rebounds. So now you say, did he earn more minutes? I mean, it isn’t who I like, dislike. I love all these guys. It’s not like I’m playing favorites. What I said to a couple guys, ‘You are what your stats say you are. And so I don’t want to hear I can do this, I can do that.'"
Gametracker: Kentucky at Arkansas, 4 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.