Arkansas basketball at Kentucky: Scouting report, score prediction for big road game

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FAYETTEVILLE — The month of February presents a tough schedule for Arkansas basketball. It starts Tuesday when the Razorbacks travel to face Kentucky at Rupp Arena.

It's the first of two matchups between Arkansas (16-7, 5-5 SEC) and Kentucky (16-7, 7-3) this season. The Wildcats will visit Fayetteville in the regular-season finale on March 4.

What will it take for Arkansas to extend its SEC win streak to five games? Here's what to know about Kentucky.

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Kentucky's season so far

Kentucky's season has been far from what was expected. The Wildcats were ranked No. 4 in the preseason coaches poll, and they fell out of the rankings on Jan. 9. They've been unranked ever since.

The Wildcats suffered some early losses in big nonconference games, falling to No. 25 Michigan State, No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 14 UCLA. They then lost three of their first four SEC games. Since then, however, Kentucky is on a six-game conference winning streak.

Oscar Tshiebwe leads the way...

Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe is one of the best players in the league, if not the country, and it starts with his rebounding. Tshiebwe leads the country in rebounds per game with 13.6. About five of those are offensive boards.

The 6-foot-9 senior is a key part of why Kentucky is so good on the glass as a team. The Wildcats have the nation's fifth-best offensive rebound percentage (37.5%), meaning they grab well over a third of their possible offensive rebounds.

"He plays volleyball with offensive rebounds," Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. "He's just tenacious. He's relentless on the glass, so you've got to match that energy."

...but Kentucky has plenty of depth

In Kentucky's last game, Florida held Tshiebwe to four points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field. The Wildcats' second-leading scorer, guard Antonio Reeves, was also limited to four.

Even with two stars quiet, Kentucky got the win. Guard Cason Wallace put up 20 points, forward Jacob Toppin had 17 and guard CJ Fredrick added 12. Musselman is well aware of the threats all three can pose.

"They have a great freshman in Wallace, who does a great job on both sides of the ball," he said. "(Fredrick) stretches the defense out. ... Toppin is a guy that has a really good mid-range pull-up game."

Score prediction

Kentucky 71, Arkansas 66 — Arkansas just got its first win on the road, but it did it against one of the league's worst teams. Now it's on the road with a short turnaround to face a Kentucky squad that's trending up. The Wildcats will use their penchant for second-chance points and their home-court advantage to beat the Razorbacks.

This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: Arkansas basketball at Kentucky: Scouting report, score prediction