The final score would indicate otherwise but the Kentucky Wildcats (17-3, 7-1 SEC) came up short in Knoxville for the second consecutive season in a slower, more traditional paced game last night at Thompson-Boling Arena. Yes, Kentucky did manage to put 80 points on the board but the game was played on Tennessee’s terms.
Kentucky just couldn’t ever seem to be able to get on track in the first half. The Cats jumped out to an early 8-2 lead but missed out on several chances to extend it early while Tennessee was cold from the field. The Vols also had a couple of obligatory bank shots fall when glass had not been called. Those are key ingredients along the way for any successful upset bid.
Tennessee was able to keep the game at a nice, methodical pace for themselves more often than not. They took a 39-34 lead to the locker room.
The struggle continued on into the second half also.
Fox 2-6, Briscoe 1-7, Monk 5-13, Gabriel 1-4, Willis 1-4, Lucky to be down only 57-48
— Vaughts' Views (@vaughtsviews) January 25, 2017
Kentucky was finally able to mount a rally in the second half cutting Tennessee’s lead to 68-66 in the closing minutes. At times, they were able to speed the Vols up, get a defensive stop and race back down and get a quick bucket on the offensive end. Dominique Hawkins’ ball pressure played a key role in this. Overall however, those moments were few and far between.
Tennessee had four players in double figures. Robert Hubbs did damage in the paint with his mid-range game while Grant Williams did solid work down low.
Bam Adebayo really came to play as he tallied 21 points, five rebounds and two blocks. He got the ball a lot more which is a good sign going forward. Surprisingly, he still did not have double-digit shot attempts (he finished with 8). So there is still room for him to be force-fed even more on the low block going forward.
Kentucky’s SEC lead is now down to a half game. South Carolina defeated Auburn to improve to 6-1 in SEC play.
Up next for Kentucky is a step out of conference to do battle with the Kansas Jayhawks Saturday evening at Rupp Arena. KU is also coming off of a conference road loss as they fell at West Virginia.
Tip off for the game versus Kansas is set for 6:15 PM.