LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)—Cliff Hawkins to Erik Daniels was a successful combination for Kentucky on Wednesday night.
Daniels scored 21 points, Hawkins matched his career high with 11 assists and No. 9 Kentucky posted its most lopsided win in Southeastern Conference play this season, 73-56 over Arkansas.
Kentucky (18-4, 8-3) scored the game’s first nine points, seven by Kelenna Azubuike, and never trailed.
Arkansas (11-12, 3-9) lost its fourth straight game and fell below .500 for the first time this season. The Razorbacks have not won at Kentucky since 1994, the year they won the national title.
Kentucky led 34-23 at halftime and Arkansas never threatened after that. The Wildcats shot 57.4 percent from the field and posted their highest point total in 11 games despite making only 13 of 25 free throws.
“I thought we had an all-around good game for the most part, except for free throw shooting,” Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. “We got some transition baskets. Everybody who came into the game was productive. That was important and a big key to the success we had tonight.”
Daniels went 10-of-13 from the field—Hawkins assisted on five of those baskets—and scored more than 20 points for the third time in seven games. He scored only 10 points combined in Kentucky’s previous two games, a 66-55 win over Alabama and a 74-68 loss at Georgia.
Daniels’ dominance inside was particularly important for Kentucky, because his frontline partner, Chuck Hayes, was limited to 10 minutes and seven points because of foul trouble.
“He’s got that jump hook,” Arkansas coach Stan Heath said of Daniels. “We all know it’s coming, but few people can stop it.”
Azubuike scored 12 points. Hawkins, who entered the game second in the SEC in assists at 5.0 per game, had 11 assists for the second time this season. He also did it against Tennessee Tech.
Hawkins also grabbed a team-high five rebounds and committed only one turnover. Kentucky had assists on 21 of its 27 baskets.
Gerald Fitch, Kentucky’s leading scorer, returned after missing three games with a sprained ligament in his right hand.
Fitch, who wore a sleeve to bind together his index and middle fingers on his shooting hand, didn’t start and went scoreless in the first half. He finished with eight points in 20 minutes.
Jonathon Modica scored 14 points and Eric Ferguson added 12 for Arkansas. Ferguson scored Arkansas’ first 10 points and brought the Razorbacks within 11-10 at one point, but Kentucky used a 14-2 run to rebuild its lead.
Arkansas shot 29 percent (9-of-31) in the first half. The Razorbacks made only three 3-pointers in 16 tries.
“We tried to feed off our offense tonight, and that doesn’t work,” Heath said. “We didn’t bring the type of intensity to win on the road in this environment.”