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Kentucky loses, but its NCAA tourney hopes aren’t dead yet

Mar 2, 2013, 6:49 PM EDT

Coty Clarke, Archie Goodwin

Arkansas is one of the nation’s best teams when playing on their home court. They run an overwhelming, pressuring defense and feed off of the raucous Bud Walton Arena crowd. Kentucky struggles in road environments and has a point guard rotation make up of Ryan Harrow and former walk-on Jarrod Polson.

Did anyone really expect the Wildcats to win this game?

Now think about this: Arkansas forced UK into 18 turnovers, crushed the Wildcats on the offensive glass in the second half and took 69 shots from the floor to Kentucky’s 43. The Razorbacks did everything that we thought they would do, and Kentucky still managed to keep Mike Anderson’s club from running them out of the gym, losing 73-60. At one point, with Jon Hood and Polson both on the floor, Kentucky had a chance to cut what was a 16 point lead to single digits with two wide-open Julius Mays threes.

He missed them both, but that’s besides the point.

On an afternoon when Arkansas did everything that they want to do against a team that simply matched up horribly with them, the Razorbacks couldn’t run away late. Kentucky was never going to win this game, and they managed to lose while putting up a pretty good fight.

But at this point in the season, “moral victories” aren’t worth anything; real wins are, particularly when you’re a team that has a resume that desperately needs to be improved. Losing to a bubble team like Arkansas certainly doesn’t help in that department.

Kentucky’s far from dead in the water, but they no longer have a margin for error. Win at Georgia, beat Florida at home and then win a game in the SEC tournament, and they’ll have a good shot at getting in. Lose anyone of those games, and they’re going to be in trouble.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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