The SEC season ended in the most appropriate way for the 2014-15 season: it ended with a Kentucky win. The Wildcats won the SEC Tournament by defeating Arkansas 78-63 Sunday afternoon.
Arkansas tried to hang in there as best it could, and it was able to tie the game a few times early. The last of the ties came at the 7:59 mark when Michael Qualls made a three-pointer. UK turned on the jets after that, though, closing out the rest of the half on a 16-4 run to head into intermission with a 41-25 lead.
The Razorbacks tried to come back some, and they did get the lead down to single digits a few times. Again, though, the Wildcats were able to respond well. They basically put the game away with an 11-2 run that extended things out to 65-47. Although the Arkansas did actually outscore Kentucky by one in the second half, it wasn’t nearly enough. No one was going to be UK today.
Willie Cauley-Stein was the player of the game, scoring 15 points and pulling down 10 rebounds, while Andrew Harrison also put in 15. Aaron Harrison was the only other player in double figures for the balanced Wildcats, and he had 11 points to go with six assists. UK shot 51% from the field on the game, and it outrebounded Arkansas by a 33-25 margin. Qualls lead the Razorbacks with 18 points in a rare bench appearance. Bobby Portis had 13 points but only two rebounds.
The Wildcats completed their pre-tournament season at 34-0 and will shortly get the honor of the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve set a standard for themselves where anything short of a tournament title will be a disappointment. The burden of expectations has scarcely been higher for any individual team, but if any team can handle it, it’s these Wildcats. They’re so deep with talent and play so well together, merely looking for a Final Four appearance does seem like setting the bar too low.
Arkansas need not feel bad about not being able to pull off what no other team has this year. The Razorbacks will probably get a 5-seed or 6-seed, which is nothing to be ashamed of for a team that hasn’t been in the Big Dance since Lehman Brothers was still in business. The Hogs are probably too good to fall prey to the 5-12 upset, and there’s not going to be a 3-seed in the field that they couldn’t beat as a 6-seed.