Four of his fellow seniors — Steven Hill, Vincent Hunter, Charles Thomas and Darian Townes — played a part in building an 18-point first-half lead in Rupp Arena. Another senior, Gary Ervin, looked on gleefully from the sideline, forced to sit out as a transfer from Mississippi State.
What unfolded after halftime shocked Weems, breaking his heart.
“I saw it on ESPN, or whatever channel it was on,” Weems said. “I watched the whole game. They were up by a lot and it got away.”
It got away fast. Arkansas’ lead dwindled down to 12 points by halftime, and Kentucky dominated throughout the second half. The Wildcats’ 78-76 victory during Arkansas’ last trip to Lexington, Ky., still irks the Razorbacks. Arkansas hasn’t won in the historic basketball facility since the school’s national championship season in 1994.
First-year coach John Pelphrey doesn’t think the six-game losing streak in Rupp Arena will hurt these Hogs in any way. Though a former Kentucky player himself, Pelphrey doesn’t buy into the argument that Rupp Arena is too tough of a place to travel to and win.
“Well, for these young men, it’s not 14 years,” Pelphrey said. “If they had played there every single year and had some shots look like they’re going in and the ball came out, accusing the ghost of Adolph Rupp tipping the ball out, then (I’d be worried). But I don’t think it’s a New York Yankee-type situation (of being intimidated).
“In reality, our team has struggled at a lot of places.”
That’s the truth. With just seven Southeastern Conference road wins in the past three seasons, Arkansas hasn’t just struggled in magnificent atmosphere. The Hogs have had their problems at every venue in the SEC.
Of all the close calls on the road for this senior class, however, the loss in Lexington on Jan. 29, 2006 may stick out the most. Ervin remembers feeling helpless plopped down next to former Arkansas coach Stan Heath, just like he did at Mississippi State when he went 0-2 against the Wildcats.
“I’ve never won against Kentucky,” Ervin said. “When you get a chance to be up like that on the road against a team like Kentucky and can’t win, it’s definitely personal.”
Arkansas center Steven Hill sounded just as personally driven before Thursday’s practice.
He wishes the Razorbacks would’ve held on for victories over Kentucky in Fayetteville in 2005 and 2007. But more than anything, he wants revenge for the one that got away, for the 18-4 lead that turned into a devastating defeat. Hill said he already had spoken with Hunter, Thomas and Townes about achieving payback.
“We’ve definitely reminisced about it,” Hill said. “As a senior class, we want to win at Rupp Arena, we want to beat Kentucky. And this is probably our last chance. So we have to give it our all.”
ARKANSAS AT KENTUCKY
WHEN: 1 p.m. TV: CBS (Cox Ch. 5)
WHERE: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.
RECORDS: Arkansas, 18-7, 7-4 Southeastern Conference; Kentucky, 14-10, 8-3
RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3
COACHES: Arkansas, John Pelphrey (18-7, 1st season; 98-74, 6 seasons); Kentucky, Billy Gillispie (14-10, 1st season; 114-68, 6 seasons)
SERIES: Kentucky leads 21-7 (9-2 in Lexington)
LAST MEETING: Kentucky beat Arkansas 82-74 on Feb. 3, 2007 in Fayetteville
Recent Arkansas-Kentucky results, all wins for Kentucky
Season Site Score
02-03 Fayetteville 66-50
03-04 Lexington 73-56
04-05 Fayetteville 68-67
05-06 Lexington 78-76
06-07 Fayetteville 82-74