LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky's game against Arkansas on Tuesday night evoked thoughts of the television commercial about how teenagers make poor decisions. The teenagers decide to hide behind the blades as the psychotic killer rolls his eyes.
"It's what you do," the narrator says.
Kentucky's issues in the final minutes of games this season are well-documented.
Against Arkansas, Kentucky did not hide behind the blades. Trailing 72-60 going into the final six minutes, UK executed. The Cats got scores on seven of nine trips down the court. Brandon Boston's fourth 3-pointer capped the spree and brought Kentucky within 78-77 with 28 seconds left.
A 3-pointer by Davion Mintz gave Kentucky an 80-79 lead with 12.3 seconds left. It capped a 14-for-26 3-point shooting game for UK.
But Ken Pomeroy rating UK No. 351 in luck this season emerged again. Jalen Tate, a 63.4% free-throw shooter this season, made two with 4.3 seconds left.
After a timeout, Olivier Sarr took the inbounds pass, dribbled near mid-court and threw a pass to Devin Askew that Arkansas intercepted to seal a heartbreaking 81-80 loss for Kentucky.
Sarr bent over in seeming agony after the play. It seemed cruel given how Sarr and Askew had combined to spark Kentucky's rally.
Kentucky fell to 5-13 overall and 4-7 in the Southeastern Conference.
Arkansas improved to 15-5 overall and 7-5 in the SEC.
Sarr and Askew scored 13 and 11 points, respectively. Sarr also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Other UK players in double figures were Boston with 17 points, Mintz with 11 and Keion Brooks with 10.
Kentucky got off to a surprisingly good start, but stumbles late in the first half enabled Arkansas to lead 36-35 at halftime.
UK made four of its first six 3-point shots. Four 3s barely eight minutes into the game was as many as the Cats had in seven previous games this season.
Two surprising players led the breakout. Boston made two and Jacob Toppin one. For Toppin, it was his first three (in six attempts) of the season.
Boston had made 11 of 55 this season, and only five of 20 in the last seven games.
Those baskets helped Kentucky lead by six points three times before the second television timeout.
Kentucky also limited the turnovers, committing only one in the first 10-plus minutes.
Arkansas stayed close. When Devo Davis hit a jumper, the Razorbacks led 34-33 with 2:48 left.
Kentucky had one basket in the final four minutes. Arkansas only had three, but the third established the halftime score with 48.2 seconds left.
With 2.2 seconds left, Kentucky tried to take the lead a la the way Duke and Christian Laettner beat UK in the epic 1992 East Region finals. But Arkansas deflected Toppin's long inbounds pass from the baseline before it got to Sarr at the top of the opposite key.
On the plus side, it was only UK's fifth turnover.
Arkansas' leading scorer, Moses Moody, had only three points in the first half. He doubled that inside the first three minutes of the second half.
The second of his three-pointers gave Arkansas a 47-42 lead with 17:14 left. That was UK's largest deficit to that point.
The deficit grew to 10 points three times before the second television timeout.
Kentucky's deficit reached its zenith at 60-49. Three-pointers brought UK back. Askew, Toppin and Sarr each made 3s in the next two-plus minutes. Sarr's corner 3 — his first points since making two free throws with 13:05 left in the first half — reduced the Arkansas lead to 65-60 with 7:53 left.
Kentucky had to deal with adversity when Isaiah Jackson picked up his fifth foul and doubled down on the harm with a reaction that the referees decided warranted a technical foul. Even worse, it was UK's 10th foul, putting Arkansas in the double bonus.
The Razorbacks made all four free throws to take a 72-60 lead with 6:10 left.
Kentucky rallied. Boston's third 3-pointer started an 8-0 run. Sarr and Askew combined for two scores. Sarr picked and popped on the first and hit a 3. Sarr picked and rolled on the second and dunked Askew's lob. That brought UK within 72-68 to set up yet another possession-by-possession test inside the final four minutes.