Kentucky received their first win over a ranked opponent of the season at No. 19 Tennessee this afternoon, overcoming the Volunteers by a margin of 70-55 due to an absolutely stifling defensive performance all around which carried them to victory.
In the last matchup between the two SEC programs, UK was outscored 34-13 over the last 12 minutes in an absolutely deflating loss in Rupp Arena. In the second go-around, Kentucky’s defense gave Tennessee no opportunity to flirt with a comeback once they got up by double-digits late in the first half. They held the Vols to just 32% shooting from the floor, including 6-22 from three.
To give those numbers some more context, Tennessee scored 93 points in a victory against South Carolina, but they did not come near that number in this outing. Their dynamic freshman duo Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer combined for 50 points in the last matchup, but this time UK held them to 19 points on 6-25 shooting from the floor as they did not allow any straight-line drives to the basket.
Of course, this win did not come without any scoring droughts for UK themselves, as they endured three and four minutes stretches without a bucket, mostly in the second half. In fact, the final score of the last 20 minutes was 25-25, hinting at the grueling defensive battle that ensued.
With that said, UK finished 40% from the field (7-14 from three) and an efficient 17-20 from the free throw line. Grad transfer Davion Mintz was specifically spectacular on that end, hitting 5-7 three-point shots which contributed to all of his 15 point outing. Freshman forward Isaiah Jackson also continued to expand his craft, as led the team with 16 points (8-9 from the free throw line) and added seven rebounds.
Speaking of boards, sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr. had a career-high 14 rebounds to go along with 10 points, his second double-double of the season. Overall, UK outrebounded Tennessee 43-31, as they completely out-toughed the Vols from start to finish.
So, yeah, that was a great performance in which extended Kentucky’s winning streak to three games (longest of the season) and made their record 8-13 (7-7 in the SEC). SEC Tournament Championship hopes still alive?