Kentucky took a one point lead at home over Arkansas with 12.3 seconds remaining on Tuesday night, only to see it quickly vanish into thin air as it blew yet another late lead in a heartbreaking 81-80 loss. The loss was Kentucky's fourth in a row and seventh over its last eight games. It is now 5-13 on the season and 4-7 in SEC play.
It was just the latest in a never-ending saga of stunning collapses for the Wildcats, following in the footsteps as recent slip-ups against Tennessee and Alabama. This one, though -- in which Kentucky took the lead for the first time since the first half with Davion Mintz's go-ahead 3-pointer with 12.3 seconds left in regulation -- wasn't as egregious as other late-game collapses. It was nonetheless a fitting end for UK after it's season-long struggles to hang on to leads.
What's worse, it appeared as if Kentucky was going to finally -- finally -- win one with late-game heroics. Instead, after Arkansas missed a potential go-ahead bucket in the lane on the other end following Mintz's bucket, Wildcats forward Jacob Toppin was called for a controversial foul that sent Jalen Tate to the line. Tate made both free throws, and Kentucky's play to potentially win it at the horn was picked off by Arkansas and returned the other way.
"That's the best we've finished a game, so I can't be too upset," said Kentucky coach John Calipari after the game. "There were things that happened. I gotta go back and look at the last call, I mean, was it a jump ball? Was there body contact? Was there something? Because this game was physical. To give them two free throws to win the game, I don't know. We'll see it when I watch the tape."
Davion Mintz gives Kentucky the lead, Arkansas gets the foul at the other end. pic.twitter.com/uVozexTpFJ— Troy Machir (@TroyMachir) February 10, 2021
Indeed, it was a resilient finish for Kentucky until it wasn't. It trailed by 12 points with six minutes remaining before reeling off a 20-7 run to take the lead before Tate's go-ahead free throws. During that stretch, the team went 7-of-9 shooting, capping an evening in which it went 14-of-26 from the 3-point line and 25-of-61 from the field.
"I think it wasn't a foul," said Kentucky freshman BJ Boston on his view of whether the go-ahead free throws by Tate were warranted. "I think the refs gave them that game. That's all I can say."
Arkansas is on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament and is a No. 10 seed in the last bracket projection by CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm.