Published March 15, 2015
New Orleans, LA – Nashville, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Two championships down, one to go.
Kentucky has accomplished its first two goals of the 2014-15 season, first winning the SEC regular-season title and adding the conference tournament crown on Sunday with a 78-63 pounding of Arkansas.
Now, it's on to the one that matters most -- the NCAA Tournament.
The top-ranked Wildcats (34-0) will enter the tourney as the No. 1 overall seed and will do so with an unblemished record after Sunday's sterling effort.
"We kind of did our thing," said Kentucky coach John Calipari. "So proud of our guys."
Andrew Harrison scored 15 points and Willie Cauley-Stein contributed 15 with 10 rebounds for Kentucky, which captured its 28th SEC Tournament title.
The Wildcats are the top seed in the Midwest Region and will face the winner of the First Four game between Manhattan and Hampton in Louisville.
They will try to become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to complete an undefeated season.
"This team has a lot of dog in it. So I don't think they're worried about numbers," said Calipari. "That's ego stuff. I don't think they worry about it."
Michael Qualls led Arkansas (26-8) with 18 points, while SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis scored 13. The 21st-ranked Razorbacks earned a No. 5 seed in the West Bracket and will open against Wofford in Jacksonville, Florida, on Thursday.
Portis said the Razorbacks' run through the SEC tournament will help them in the NCAAs.
"I think it will help us out a lot just because we got the chance to get the feel of playing three games in three days," he said. "In the tournament, it's a day in between."
Kentucky raced out to an 8-0 lead, but Arkansas wasn't fazed early and responded with 10 of the next 12 to tie it. It was still tied at 19-19 when the Wildcats broke it open.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored the first four as part of a 22-6 run to close the half. Aaron Harrison drained a pair of shots from beyond the arc during the burst, but it was the Kentucky defense that played the biggest role.
Arkansas made just 1-of-13 from the field during the final 10 minutes of the half and turned the ball over three times. Tyler Ulis drained two free throws with 1:26 remaining and neither team scored again as the Wildcats carried a 41-25 advantage to the intermission.
The Razorbacks tried to stay in it, pulling within nine a few times midway through the second half. Qualls scored eight straight Arkansas points and his jumper with just under 10 minutes left made it a 54-45 game.
Kentucky then opened some breathing room with an 11-2 run. Andrew Harrison scored five to key the spurt and a layup by Cauley-Stein after an offensive rebound extended the margin to 65-47 with just under 6 1/2 minutes remaining.
A free throw by Cauley-Stein with 3 1/2 minutes left gave Kentucky a 20-point bulge and the cushion reached as many as 21 on a 3-pointer by Andrew Harrison a few moments later.
Aaron Harrison finished with 11 points and six assists, while Towns and Ulis each chipped in eight points ... Kentucky had 12 assists on 14 made field goals in the first half ... The Wildcats shot 51 percent and made 7-of-12 from 3-point range ... Kentucky, which lost to Florida in last year's conference tournament title game, improved to 28-10 in SEC championship games ... Arkansas last played in the SEC final in 2008, a loss to Georgia, and fell to 1-5 in the tournament championship, including losses to Kentucky in 1995 and 1999. The lone SEC crown for Arkansas came in 2000 ... Kentucky earned an 84-67 victory over Arkansas on Feb. 28 at Rupp Arena in the lone meeting during the regular season.