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FAYETTEVILLE -- Historically in the SEC, the Kentucky Wildcats are the basketball team that can beat an opponent twice and only play it once.

Or a team can beat the Wildcats and still lose partly because of not playing them again.

Kentucky's tradition can impact that severely. Opponents tend to overdraw their adrenaline bank preparing for and playing Kentucky.

That was standard against Arkansas in the 1990s when Nolan Richardson had the Razorbacks roaring. The rare Arkansas defeat created court-storming celebration on the road and victors acting like they won the Final Four. Arkansas opponents' close-but-no-cigars often left them vulnerable to getting smoked in their next game.

Arkansas celebrated near Final Four style its last Bud Walton Arena win over Kentucky on Michael Qualls' dunk in 2014, then lost its next two games.

Losses to Kentucky in 2016 and 2017 begat Arkansas losses the next game, including last season to underdog Mississippi State at Bud Walton.

Players will say, as the Razorbacks did before their 87-72 loss to Kentucky last Tuesday at Bud Walton, that they prepare for Kentucky like any other game. But most don't.

Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson knew it from the Razorbacks' sizzling 11-0 start and second-half flattened finish outscored 44-29 after a 43-43 first half and outrebounded 23-12 the final 20 minutes.

"Obviously our guys came out and they were fired up with emotions," Anderson said. "But emotions only take you so long and so far. That's why you've got to play basketball."

If Kentucky seems the ingredient for a guaranteed hangover like New Year's Day for the too spirits spirited on New Year's Eve, the Hogs did get a Tuesday second-half head start into the hangover to recover.

"We spent all the emotion in the first half," Anderson said. "For 30 minutes we were right there but then we ran out of gas."

And perhaps ran out of memory from the fools' gold 11-0 start with three quick 3s that defense and rebounding created the shooting trouncing the long, tall rebound adept Texas A&M Aggies last Saturday at Bud Walton.

And give Kentucky its due. This young Kentucky team may not have the consistency of John Calipari's young Kentucky teams past, but Kentucky is still Kentucky. The Wildcats are loaded with McDonald's All-Americans capable of routing anyone on a given SEC day.

All teams in this top to bottom tough SEC have proven capable of routing each other which Arkansas 19-9, 8-7, has certainly done and so has the Alabama Crimson Tide, 17-11, 8-7, that Arkansas plays at 5 today in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Anderson expects his Razorbacks and Coach Avery Johnson's Tide, with much of the same Kentucky length and athleticism but bashed 90-71 Wednesday by instate archival Auburn in Auburn, Ala., to start today's Tuscaloosa tussle with emotionally clean slates and minds on their own game and not their opponent's mystique.

"Our concern is putting 40 minutes together," Anderson said. "That's the biggest concern."

Sports on 02/24/2018

Print Headline: Hogs hope to shake proverbial Kentucky hangover

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