No doubt about it

No. 1 Kentucky (29-0) manhandles Arkansas

Kentucky's Devin Booker (1) shoots amid Arkansas defenders during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- What was supposed to be the SEC's marquee basketball game of the season turned into another Kentucky rout.

Arkansas was no match for the No. 1 Wildcats, who led by 31 points in the second half before settling for an 84-67 victory Saturday before an announced crowd of 24,416 at Rupp Arena.

The No. 18 Razorbacks (23-6, 12-4) were the first nationally ranked SEC team to play Kentucky (29-0, 15-0) this season. Kentucky clinched the outright SEC title, the 46th Wildcats have won or shared.

"I thought we'd give Kentucky a little bit better run for their money," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "It seemed like they came out real focused."

The Razorbacks had won three in a row against the Wildcats, including a two-game sweep last season when Arkansas twice won in overtime.

"I'm sure they were kind of pissed off about that, too," Anderson said. "They came to play."

Kentucky set the tone eight seconds into the game when Trey Lyles dunked on a lob pass from Karl-Anthony Towns, his fellow freshman forward.

The Wildcats were ahead 42-26 at halftime after the Razorbacks shot 27.9 percent from the field (8 of 27) and were 0 of 9 on three-point attempts.

"They came out and kind of punched us early on and put us back on our heels," Anderson said. "We were always fighting uphill."

Arkansas pulled to within 44-31 with 19:01 left after a three-point basket by Michael Qualls and a jump shot by Alandise Harris, which prompted Kentucky Coach Calipari to call a timeout. The Wildcats then outscored the Razorbacks 9-2 over a 2:07 span, including five points by sophomore guard Andrew Harrison, to push their lead to 53-33 with 16:28 left.

Arkansas didn't pull closer than 14 points the rest of the game and trailed 78-47 after a jump shot by Devin Booker.

"I think they were looking forward to this game," Calipari said of the Wildcats. "We withstood any kind of run."

Harrison and Lyles led Kentucky with 18 points each. Lyles hit 8 of 10 shots, most on dunks and layups as he helped the Wildcats outscore the Razorbacks 40-24 on points in the paint.

Kentucky shot 48.3 percent from the field, including 56.7 percent (17 of 30) in the second half.

"As you get to this time of year, there's a lot of physicality that takes place, and so we've got to learn how to play through that," Anderson said. "I didn't think we did a good job of that today."

Kentucky junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein, who had been 0-3 against Arkansas, had 7 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Freshman guard Trey Ulis had 14 points and Booker, another freshman guard, had 10.

"It felt like every time we started putting pressure on one player, somebody else picked it up," said Qualls, a junior guard who led Arkansas with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists. "That's what a true team does."

Ulis said Kentucky's freshmen were eager to help the older Wildcats beat Arkansas.

"I was really looking forward to this game," Ulis said. "The team was, too. Of course we wanted some get-back."

Kentucky had nine turnovers Saturday after combining for 35 in the two games against the Razorbacks last season.

Qualls said Arkansas wasn't able to force the ball into the hands of Kentucky's big men -- "They sent their towers downcourt," he said -- and that the Wildcats' guards did a good job of handling the ball.

"Obviously they're a great basketball team," Qualls said. "You just look at their record."

Qualls said it "wasn't there today" in terms of the Razorbacks being able to force the Wildcats into mistakes.

"We didn't play our best game," Qualls said. "I'm actually proud of our guys for not putting our heads down, because it could have gotten real ugly."

The Razorbacks outscored the Wildcats 20-6 the final 7:39.

"I was disappointed in the outcome, but I wasn't disappointed in the effort," Anderson said. "I thought our guys gave a great effort."

Arkansas sophomore forward Bobby Portis had 15 points and eight rebounds. Harris, a senior forward, had 15 points and senior guard Ky Madden added 11.

"Our team couldn't speed them up, unfortunately," Portis said. "They took care of the ball. That's pretty much what it was today."

The Razorbacks hit 5 of 9 three-pointers in the second half, but by then the Wildcats had control of the game.

"We did not want them to beat us shooting threes," Calipari said. "We wanted them to drive the ball. We're a pretty good defensive team. It's hard to beat us off the dribble, and if you do, you're running into 7-footers."

Anderson was asked what it will take for a team to beat Kentucky.

"It wasn't what we had today," he said. "I know that."

Sports on 03/01/2015