Clarke paces Arkansas past Kentucky 73-60


Associated Press

Posted on March 3, 2013 at 4:00 PM

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Coty Clarke is feeling more and more at home toward the end of his first season at Arkansas.

Clarke did a lot of everything when the Razorbacks needed it the most on Saturday — finishing with 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds as Arkansas did its best to make a renewed case for an NCAA tournament bid with a convincing 73-60 win over Kentucky.

The junior-college transfer had six assists and three steals for the Razorbacks (18-11, 9-7 Southeastern Conference), which improved to 17-1 at home. Clarke is now averaging 12 points and 6.8 rebounds over his last five games and the 6-foot-7 forward showed off his comfort level and versatility on Saturday.

"It's become real comfortable for me," Clarke said. "My confidence, it's sky-high, I guess right now, you could say."

Arkansas' only loss in Bud Walton Arena this season came to then-No. 6 Syracuse on Nov. 30 and it is now 33-4 at home under second-year coach Mike Anderson. Marshawn Powell had 15 points and BJ Young added 13 for the Razorbacks, which snapped a two-game losing streak with the win.

Arkansas native Archie Goodwin led the Wildcats (20-9, 11-5) with 14 points, while Willie Cauley-Stein had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Ryan Harrow added 10 points.

After a tight first half, Arkansas took control early in the second and never let off the intensity against the defending national champions.

A sellout crowd of 18,139 in Bud Walton Arena arrived early and thrived on a serious of highlights for the Razorbacks — particularly as they pushed the lead to as many as 15 points in the second half.

An 11-0 run early in the second half — capped by a 3-pointer and three-point play by Powell — gave Arkansas a 43-31 lead and put it well on its way to a much-needed win if the school hopes to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

"I was concerned about how we would respond coming off a tough loss on the road at LSU," Anderson said. "But I thought we came out and we did what we normally do here, we defended.

"We tried to make the game as chaotic as we could, and I thought that was the difference in the game."

Kentucky, which had won three straight, closed with within 45-40 after a 3-pointer by Alex Poythress, but that was as close as it would get.

Young answered with a lay-up on the other end for the Razorbacks, starting a 7-0 run which put them up 52-40 and effectively put the game out of reach for the Wildcats — which committed 19 turnovers that led to 30 points for Arkansas.

The Razorbacks, next to last in the SEC in rebounding margin, also outrebounded Kentucky 44-37 — including 20 offensive rebounds.

"We weren't as tough as them, and we didn't play as hard as them," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "They wanted the game more than us, and that team usually wins.

"And they did."

Clarke, in just his 10th start of his first season for the Razorbacks as a junior-college transfer, had the final six points of the run. His put-back of a Young miss and following free throw to complete the three-point play put Arkansas up 50-40, and he followed that moments later by grabbing his eighth rebound — leading to a foul by Kentucky and two more free throws.

Arkansas led 32-29 at halftime despite shooting only 30.8 percent (12 of 39) in the half. The Razorbacks did so behind seven points from Powell in 11 minutes, and they scored 13 points off 11 Kentucky turnovers.

The Wildcats went up 12-6 early after a free throw by Goodwin, who led Little Rock's Sylvan Hills High School to an Arkansas state championship a year ago, but the turnovers began to take its toll after that.

Young followed Goodwin's free throw with a lay-up on the other end, beginning a 12-2 run that gave the Razorbacks the lead for the first time and ended with them ahead 18-14 following a free throw by Young. The sophomore entered the game 2 of 19 from the field over his previous two games, but he finished 5 of 13 from the field on Saturday.

Goodwin was harassed throughout by the Arkansas crowd during his return to his home state, greeted with boos during pre-game warm-ups and throughout. He finished 5 of 8 from the field, 4 of 9 from the free throw line.

"It doesn't make me feel bad at all because I'm not from Fayetteville," Goodwin said. "I'm from Little Rock.

"Everybody in Little Rock loves me. That's all that matters to me."

Jarrod Polson put Kentucky back ahead 26-25 with a pair of free throws, the last lead the Wildcats had in losing for the first time since an 88-58 setback to Tennessee. That was their first game without the nation's leading shot blocker, Nerlens Noel, following a season-ending knee injury.

Kentucky had won three straight since then, including an 85-55 thrashing of Mississippi State earlier in the week, but they had no answer for Arkansas' home magic on Saturday.

"I'm real surprised," Stein-Cauley said. "To me, it felt like we had turned the corner from this right here, what we just went through. It seemed like we were past that."