FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas accomplished something only one other team had managed against Kentucky during its 87-85 overtime win Tuesday night.
The Razorbacks attempted more free throws than the Wildcats.
Kentucky — which has spent plenty of time at the stripe because of big men like Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein — held an overwhelming advantage against opponents from the stripe this season (500-286). But Arkansas attempted 41 free throws in Bud Walton Arena, while the Wildcats finished with 40.
“I didn’t even know we won that free-throw battle, but that was one of our biggest and main points,” Arkansas guard Michael Qualls said. “We knew Kentucky shot more free throws than any other team in the country. So winning that battle is big.”
Kentucky entered the game averaging 33.3 free throw attempts a game and topped that mark in a foul-filled game. It was the fourth time the Wildcats had attempted 40 or more free throws in a game this season.
But it was just the second time a Kentucky opponent attempted 40 or more free throws as well. North Carolina held a 45-43 edge in an 82-77 win on Dec. 14.
“Usually we take 20 more than the other team, so you’ve got to give them credit,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said about the Razorbacks.
Arkansas went 29-for-41 (70.7 percent) from the line, struggling at times to cash in on the opportunities. It included eight missed free throws in the second half, which helped Kentucky (26-for-40) force overtime.
But the Razorbacks went 7-for-8 from the line in overtime to help wrap up the win.
“You’ve got to be consistent on the line,” said Qualls, who went 7-for-11 to lead the Hogs. “I feel like Kentucky is so used to putting pressure on other people, other defenses, getting to the line. We wanted to put that same pressure on them.
“It’s easy to bring the fight to someone. It’s a lot different when people fight back.”
There aren’t many coaches who can claim success against Kentucky, which is one of the most storied programs in college basketball.
But Arkansas coach Mike Anderson can so far.
Anderson has a winning record against the Wildcats, improving to 3-2 on Tuesday night. He led the Razorbacks to back-to-back wins against Kentucky for the first time since the 2000 and 2001 season and improved to 2-1 as Arkansas’ coach.
“It’s just another game,” Anderson said Tuesday night, brushing off his success. “I don’t even … I guess I’m not into me. I like winning. I just like winning.
“Kentucky is a tremendous program. Cal’s a great, great coach, has a great, great team, great staff. We were just fortunate. We had the ball last and we made a play.”
Anderson went 1-1 against the Wildcats during his four-year tenure with the Blazers. Both games came in the NCAA Tournament. UAB knocked off Kentucky, the No. 1 seed, in the second round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats returned the favor the next season with a first-round win in Anderson’s final game.
Arkansas played an overtime game for the second time in four days.
It was the first time the Razorbacks had played consecutive overtime games since the 1995 season, when Arkansas needed extra time to beat both Syracuse (Round of 32) and Memphis (Sweet 16) in the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas eventually reached the national title game, where it lost to UCLA.
The Razorbacks had never played back-to-back overtime games in Bud Walton Arena before this month. But Anderson said his team “showed great poise.”
“We’d been in this place before,” Anderson said he told his team before overtime began. “Let’s show not only ourselves but everybody else we learned something from the last time we were in overtime. In order to get that experience you have got to go through it. It was tough playing Florida and losing a game that we thought we were in control, but at the same time it was a lesson learned.”
Arkansas has never played in three straight games decided in overtime.