The Kentucky Wildcats made Tennessee cry real Voluntears as they routed the No. 1 ranked team in America. UK won by a score of 86-69 in front of a raucous Rupp Arena crowd.
The Cats came out locked in. Behind a dominating first half from PJ Washington, UK went into the break with a 37-31 lead.
The energy and effort was at an all-time high for this group. Every single player looked ready for the big stage. The lead grew in the second half to as much as 24 points before Tennessee finally woke up.
But the Cats withstood it and came away with the big win.
Ashton Hagans finally returned to normal after a string of bad games. He got to the basket, passed the ball well, and of course, played lock-down defense.
Keldon Johnson also awoke from his slump. He was lights out in the first half, getting the Rupp Arena crowd fired up early on. And he continued to play well in the second, as he was scoring from everywhere on the court.
Reid Travis had a slow start, but he dominated the paint for a stretch in the second half. He was brought to Kentucky to match up with Tennessee, and, boy, did he show them what physicality really is.
The bench was also really good once again. Nick Richards made some bonehead plays in the second half, but him, Immanuel Quickley, Jemarl Baker, and EJ Montgomery all gave quality minutes. EJ was the best off the bench though, as he rebounded, defended, and had a huge put-back dunk.
Last but not least, Tyler Herro was ready to face the nation’s top-ranked team. Herro put up a double-double in what was an all-around great effort. He didn’t score the way we’re used to, but he brought the physical play as he crashed the boards all night. (Side note: he missed his first free throw since December 22. I guess we can’t really fault him for that.)
Now, everyone can put the LSU game out of sight and out of mind. Because these Cats responded as well as you could’ve hoped.
“Overrated” chants broke out late in the game, as Kentucky made a statement to the rest of the country that they aren’t afraid of anyone.
After the huge win, the Cats will travel to Columbia to take on the Missouri Tigers on Tuesday night.
PJ Washington continued to prove his dominance as he made his case for the SEC Player of the Year. He absolutely did whatever he wanted to do in the paint all night long.
PJ did not back away from Tennessee’s physicality. Instead, he overpowered it by using his elite athleticism to get up hook shot after hook shot.
He was a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor. His confidence is sky high right now, and there aren’t many better players in the country.
PJ Washington is the Wildcats’ best player, and he’s not going away any time soon. And he completely outplayed the fellow SEC Player of the Year candidate Grant Williams.
Washington finished with 23 points, five rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. He shot 9-12 from the floor, including 1-2 from three and 4-7 from the free throw line. He did a little bit of everything.
What a dominant display, and I think it’s time to really start thinking about PJ as the best player in the conference. I’m not sure there’s a better example of what coming back for a second year can do for guys at Kentucky.
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