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This season has not gone as planned, not even close. BBN was upset, rightfully so. Their beloved Cats have had a tough season, to say the least. They were coming off a home loss to South Carolina and before that a beat down in Alabama. Tennessee on the other hand was ranked #5 and recently had beaten South Carolina by over 40 points. The same South Carolina team that just beat the Cats, so things weren’t looking good for UK going to Tennessee.
UK fans had been blowing up social media chat rooms and blogs calling for the head of Coach Cal. The main complaints were this years team wasn’t playing with any urgency, no defense and a stagnant offense that hasn’t changed in years. The talent is there but the other intangibles, simply was not.
A lot has been said of the play of point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who leads the SEC in assists but according to most fans we talked to, plays out of control and dribbles the shot clock down on every possession which leads to bad shots. His defense hasn’t been very good is another complaint. Sahvir Wheeler did not play against Tennessee, was that the difference in UK’s offense.
Things definitely did not start off good for the Cats as they fell behind 8-0 to start the game. It looked like South Carolina all over again, but then UK settled down and scored 10 straight points. from there it was a battle. UK had 19 turnovers and 24 fouls, yet won the game. Tennessee had 18 fouls and just 11 turnovers, yet lost the game. UK would hit 22-25 foul shots which was clearly the difference in the game as the Vols only took 10 free throws hitting 7.
UK looked at it’s best with the lineup of Toppin with 5 points 8 rebounds, Tshiebwe with 15 points and 13 rebounds, CJ Frederick with 13 points, Wallace with 6 assists and 2 steals and Reeves with 18 points and 8-8 free throws. Kentucky out rebounded the Vols 43-23 including a 13-4 on the offensive glass.
Kentucky probably put together its best game of the season. Not statistically overall, but played with more heart and hustle diving for loose balls and battling on nearly every play. Their offense, although deliberate, was more controlled without having the shot clock running out on seemingly every possession as with Wheeler at the point. Players moved, set screens and battled for every rebound, something that they didn’t do very much of all season. It was a signature win and much needed.
Is this the turning point of the season? Is this where the Cats finally start playing like the preseason juggernaut they were picked to be or will they revert back to the team that lost at home to South Carolina. Does this team really play better without Sahvir Wheeler or was this just the game that UK finally turns the corner and saves their season. For today BBN is cutting Coach Cal some slack, but there is always the next game.
UK vs Tennessee Box Score
UK SEASON STATS
UK MBB: Postgame Notes at Tennessee
Final Score: Kentucky 63, No. 5/5 Tennessee 56
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is now 11-6 on the season, 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference.
- Tennessee is 14-3, 4-1 in conference play.
- Kentucky holds a 159-77 advantage in the all-time series, including 58-53 in Knoxville.
- Next for UK: on Tuesday, the Wildcats host Georgia at 9 p.m. at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center.
- Kentucky opened with a starting lineup of Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Chris Livingston, Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe for the first time this year.
- Sahvir Wheeler (left shoulder) and Daimion Collins (left foot) missed the game with injuries. Both are considered day-to-day.
- The game marked the first time in history an unranked Kentucky team beat an Associated Press top-five team on the road.
- Kentucky outrebounded Tennessee, 43-23. The Volunteers came into the game second in the conference and fifth nationally with 41.06 rebounds per game.
- It marked the third time this season that Tennessee was outrebound. The previous largest rebounding differential for a Volunteers’ opponent was 47-38 by Colorado in a 78-66 Buffaloes’ victory.
- The plus-20 rebounding margin for the Cats tied for the second highest of the season. UK was plus-20 in the win over South Carolina State and a season-best plus-21 against Bellarmine.
- Since the start of the 2011-12 season, UK has now won six games while shooting less than 36% from the field. The previous win was in a 66-61 win over Georgia on Dec. 31, 2017.
- The Wildcats connected on 22 of 25 free throws for an 88.0% clip. The percentage and number of makes both marked season highs.
- Kentucky held a 12-4 advantage in second-chance points and 24-13 lead in bench scoring.
- The game featured 13 lead changes and eight ties.
- The eight-point deficit was the largest overcome by the Wildcats this season. Kentucky previously trailed by six against Bellarmine and Michigan in victories.
- The win snapped a two-game losing streak against the Volunteers.
- It also snapped a three-game skid for Kentucky away from Rupp Arena this season.
- UK limited the Volunteers to 56 points. The Cats are now 210-10 under John Calipari when limiting the opponent to 63 points or fewer, including 8-1 this season.
- Oscar Tshiebwe had 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds and his SEC-best 10th double-double of the season.
- Tshiebwe has 38 double-doubles in 49 career games for UK, including five of his last six contests.
- He entered the game second in the nation with 13.1 boards per contest.
- CJ Fredrick played a season-high 37 minutes, pouring in 13 points while connecting on three 3-pointers.
- Antonio Reeves scored a team-high 18 points, his 12th double-figure game of the season.
- The contest marked the sixth time this season Reeves led the team in scoring.
- Reeves was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line.
- After missing the South Carolina game with an injury, Jacob Toppin went for five points, eight boards and a season-best five assists.
- Adou Thiero played 13 minutes, making all four of his free-throws and adding a pair of steals.
Coach John Calipari
- Calipari is 20-15 against the Volunteers.
- Calipari has an 821-247 all-time on-court record and is 376-107 in 14 seasons at UK.
- The win moved Calipari to within four wins of passing Harry Rabenhorst (178) for sixth-most SEC regular-season wins in league history.
- The win improved UK’s record against ranked foes under Calipari to 68-47.
In the First Half
- Tennessee connected on four of its first five shots to take on 8-0 less than three minutes into the contest, but the Wildcats responded with a 13-2 run, including eight from Fredrick, over 4:03 to take a three-point lead at the 11:26 mark.
- The teams went back and forth for much of the rest of the half but after the game was tied at 23, Kentucky would go on a 10-3 run over the final 3:33 to take a 33-26 advantage into the break.
- Fredrick led the Cats with 10 points in the first 20 minutes while Tshiebwe went for eight points and eight boards.
- Kentucky held a 22-10 lead on the glass, including 9-2 on the offensive boards, in the opening stanza.
In the Second Half
- The Cats went cold offensively to open the second half, connecting on two of their first 11 attempts from the field before a Tyreke Key 3-pointer for the Vols evened the score at 41 with 10:26 remaining.
- A Zakai Zeigler layup with 9:30 left to play gave Tennessee a 43-41 lead but a 3-pointer and a jumper by Reeves turned the tide in favor of the Wildcats at 46-43 with 7:54 remaining.
- A pair of Key free throws knotted the game at 48-48 but a 10-2 Wildcat run, kicked off by a Fredrick 3-pointer and capped by a pair of free throws from Reeves, gave Kentucky a 58-50 advantage with 3:26 remaining.
- However, the Volunteers again wouldn’t go away, using a 6-0 run, including back-to-back buckets from Uros Plavsic, to trim the Kentucky lead to 58-56 with 1:08 left to play.
- After a Wildcats turnover, the Vols had a pair of chances at the rim but were unable to convert as Tshiebwe came down with the board. Tshiebwe connected on 1-of-2 at the line and, after another stop, Reeves and Toppin each hit a pair to cap the 63-56 win.