BOZICH | Kentucky dazzles Arkansas -- and NBA scouts - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Kentucky dazzles Arkansas -- and NBA scouts

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – This Kentucky game was supposed to be different.

A different vibe. A different storyline. Drama to the last dribble, maybe?

Sources say a few folks alleged that Arkansas had an opportunity to make this a game where the conversation would not drift toward Kentucky's push toward an unbeaten season or how quickly John Calipari's players would be selected in the 2015 NBA Draft.


Kentucky 84, Arkansas 67 -- in a game that Kentucky led by 31 with eight minutes to play. The Razorbacks had about as much fun as Kansas or UCLA.

Make the Wildcats 29-0 over all and 16-0 in the Southeastern Conference – 11 games from perfection this season. Put the SEC regular-season trophy in the mail.

The Wildcats never trailed, not for a second, against an Arkansas program that defeated Kentucky twice last season. Kentucky led by nine after less than 3 minutes, by 16 points after 14 minutes and … well, you understand. You know which way this story is about to twist, the same direction it has twisted all season.

The Wildcats brushed aside a team ranked 18th in the nation like a stray piece of lint on Calipari's suit. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson was so unsettled by Kentucky's ability to protect the rim that he erupted after the Wildcats' fourth blocked shot – and was rewarded with a technical foul by official Doug Shows about seven minutes into the second half.

In the SEC, only Vanderbilt shoots the three-point shot better than Arkansas. The Razorbacks missed all nine shots from distance in the first half and trailed, 42-26. Michael Qualls finally made a three-pointer for Arkansas 23 seconds into the second half. The Hogs finished five for 18.

Didn't matter. UK won by 17 against an Arkansas team that was only beaten by a combined 20 points in its first three SEC defeats.

By halftime the only question was how long the 20 or so NBA scouts, like New York Knicks president Phil Jackson, would continue to watch?

Jackson exited during the final TV timeout, with the Wildcats leading, 80-57.

Credit Trey Lyles and Andrew Harrison with 18 points. Willie Cauley-Stein had nine rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Karl-Anthony Towns made four of five shots while Tyler Ulis made four of six. Aaron Harrison had five steals.

The NBA posse arrived early to scout both teams. Jackson, the man who is trying to make the Knicks a power like the teams he coached with the Bulls and Lakers, sat on the baseline near the Arkansas bench. The Knicks are awful, which means their odds are better than any other team to draft first in June.

What did I learn from the NBA guys?

Two things:

1.) Don't be certain that Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor will be the first pick in the 2015 NBA Draft;

2.) Look for as many as three UK players to be taken in lottery, two more in the first round and at least two others in the second.

Which Kentucky player could overtake Okafor?

One basketball person told me Karl-Anthony Towns, UK's mammoth freshman. The other said Willie Cauley-Stein, the Kentucky junior who can play center, forward, guard, assistant coach and blogger.

“Towns is more athletic than Okafor,” one basketball man said. “He's got a greater upside. He's longer and harder to score on.”

And Cauley-Stein?

“I was here two weeks ago and saw him stand out there and make two tough 16- or 17-foot shots,” another basketball scout said. “When I saw that, that changed my perception of him because if he adds that to his game, look out.

“You hear everybody say that Cauley-Stein can guard all five positions – and that's true. But he's much more than that. He's become a much better offensive player. And he might be the best athlete in the draft at any position. All he needs is a little confidence.”

The Wildcats' third lottery selection will be freshman guard Devin Booker.

The other two first-round selections? Freshman forward Trey Lyles and Dakari Johnson, the sophomore center.

That means the Harrison Twins, Aaron and Andrew, are likely to have their names called in the second round.

Now there are two more SEC regular-season games remaining – Tuesday night at Georgia and Senior Night in Rupp Arena against Florida next Saturday night.

Don't expect much drama in those games either.

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