For the first time since 2003, the Kentucky Wildcats knocked off the No. 1 team in Rupp Arena, as they knocked off the Tennessee Volunteers.
Right from the tip, it was obvious that this was going to be one of the most physical games you will see all season, as bodies were hitting the floor and to the officials’ credit, they were letting them play.
It was the PJ Washington show early on as he scored the first 7 points for the Cats as they had the early 7-4 lead.
Then it was Keldon Johnson, who racked up 13 points quickly and the Cats held a 23-18 lead with just over 6 minutes remaining.
Down the stretch of the first half, Kentucky fed Washington and he continued to deliver every possession they went to him on his way to a 13-point first half on 6/7 shooting.
However, it was Ashton Hagans that got the call on the last play of the half, and he blew by his defender for the easy layup, sending the Cats into halftime with a 6-point lead, 37-31.
After the break, Kentucky came out and stepped on the Vols throats as they started the half on a 14-0 run to go up 51-31 forcing Rick Barnes to take a timeout.
Kentucky would push the lead to 24 as they led 60-36 with 13:24 left to play. However, you knew Tennessee was going to make a run.
The Vols went of a quick 11-0 run to gain some momentum making it 62-49 and forcing Cal to take a timeout.
Kentucky stepped up and stopped the Tennessee run while hitting free throws down the stretch, as they would go on to win it 86-69.
Thoughts on the game
PJ Washington dominated
Right from the start, you could tell that PJ was ready to play and prove that he is the best player in the SEC.
He scored the first 7 points for the Cats on his way to a 23-point performance. He also had 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and an assist. His 13-point first half allowed Kentucky to take a 6-point lead at halftime before Kentucky really got going and blew away the Vols in the second half.
The PJ Washington jump hook is straight cash. pic.twitter.com/vAynRHiSKX— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 17, 2019
PJ Washington having himself a night. pic.twitter.com/Z8TBO5gyci— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 17, 2019
Last season, PJ dominated Tennessee in Knoxville before he was taken out of the game because of cramps, and we know how that ended. So, you knew he wanted to make a statement tonight.
With his performance, I believe he has made a huge step in the SEC Player of the Year talk and deservingly so. He’s also starting to put himself in the discussion for a top-10 pick in this year’s draft. There are few players in America playing better than him right now.
Ashton Hagans bounces back
The last three games have been a struggle for Hagans, as it looked like he hit a freshman wall.
For this team to be the best it can, be he must play at a high level, and that’s what he did tonight.
Hagans finished with 9 points, 7 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals. He also did an excellent job of defending Jordan Bone throughout the game. Most of his points came in garbage time when Kentucky had it already locked up.
Ashton Hagans making his man dance. pic.twitter.com/NoCEV3BMnl— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 17, 2019
Fellow Vols guards Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden combined to shoot 3/18 for 7 points with just 3 assists vs. 2 turnovers.
Hopefully, this marks the end of the slump for Hagans and he’ll get back playing like this consistently. Kentucky will absolutely needed it to make a deep run in March, which was evident by Kentucky’s two-game outing this week.
Reid Travis had a big second half
Travis was brought to Kentucky to dominate a matchup like this one. But in the first half, he was held to zero points and didn’t look ready to go.
However, the second half as a different story, as he scored 11 points with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks to punish the Vols inside. He was crucial in making Grant Williams’ life hard, as the All-SEC performer was held to just 3/4 shooting and did most of his damage on free throws.
He also knocked down some big free throws late to put this one on ice.
Reid Travis rebound out to Tyler Herro for the corner 3. pic.twitter.com/1B6D5JF6db— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 17, 2019
Keldon Johnson stepped up
Realistically, Admiral Schofield is a second-round pick in the NBA Draft. Johnson is a projected lottery pick. So, this was the matchup to show the league that he can defend and score on someone of that caliber.
Well, he answered the call.
Johnson finished with 19 points, 4 rebounds, an assist, and a steal. Yes, Schofield had 17 points, but Keldon held him to just 38% shooting proving that he is worthy of that lottery pick.
Keldon Johnson baseline floater off the bounce. pic.twitter.com/m5r3kuuO7Q— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 17, 2019
Keldon Johnson AGAIN from downtown and then loosens that shooting arm. pic.twitter.com/V9oo5x9IBr— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 17, 2019
Earlier this season, John Calipari cited Schofield as the kind of player Johnson needed to emulate. He did every bit of that and then some in Round 1 of their matchup.
EJ Montgomery continues to improve
EJ is gaining more and more confidence each game and is making big plays for this team in recent outings.
In this one he had 6 points and 4 rebounds, but he made big plays and was very solid on the inside defending the Tennessee bigs.
Reid Travis rejection leads to the EJ Montgomery putback slam. pic.twitter.com/wABfb6pLMe— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 17, 2019
EJ could be the key off the bench for this team to make a big run and he is getting better each time he takes the floor. By March, he could be the x-factor for this Kentucky team being able to win a national championship.
Louisville within Kentucky’s grasp
When the initial NCAA bracket reveal came out, Tennessee was the second No. 1 seed, thus allowing them to the top seed in the Louisville for the South Region.
Even though Kentucky was the top 2 seed, they were sent to the Midwest with Virginia, as the committee doesn’t want the Cats and Vols to both be playing so close in Louisville, not to mention the top two seeds in one region being from the same conference.
But because the Cats just whipped the Vols, that may have allowed the Cavaliers to pass them for the second 1 seed, which would have them being the top seed in the South Region since it’s closer to Virginia.
If Virginia is the South 1 seed, it’s fair to think Kentucky would be the 2 seed there if they’re the top 2 seed.
If Kentucky can’t squeak out a 1 seed, they’ll ideally be playing as a 2 in Louisville. Saturday was a big step toward making that happen.
The Cats will be in action again Tuesday night as they travel to face the Missouri Tigers. That game will tip at 9:00 pm EST on ESPN.
Now, here are the postgame notes and milestones via UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is now 21-4 overall and 10-2 in the Southeastern Conference.
- Tennessee is 23-2, 11-1 in the SEC, ending the Volunteers’ 19-game winning streak.
- Kentucky leads the series 155-71 and has won two in a row.
- Kentucky leads 12-8 when both teams are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. This was the first time the teams had played when both were ranked in the top five.
- UK leads 93-17 in games played in Lexington.
- Tonight’s attendance of 24,467 the third largest in Rupp Arena history.
- Next for Kentucky: on Tuesday, the Wildcats play at Missouri. Game time is 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT in Columbia) and it will be televised on ESPN.
In the First Half
- Kentucky started Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington and Reid Travis for the 18th time this season. UK is now 14-4 with that lineup.
- Tennessee got the first basket – the visitors’ only lead of the game – but Washington replied with UK’s first seven points for a 7-4 lead.
- Midway through the half, Johnson got hot, making 11 straight points for UK – including three 3-pointers – to build UK’s largest lead of the half at 23-15.
- The teams battled evenly the remainder of the half and UK took a 37-31 lead into intermission.
- Washington and Johnson led the way with 13 points each.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky began the second half with the starting lineup.
- Washington swished a jump hook and Herro followed with a corner 3-pointer, spurting the lead to 42-31 and forcing a Tennessee timeout less than a minute into the half.
- Kentucky kept it going with nine more points to make it 51-31, with Tennessee calling yet another timeout at the 16:31 mark.
- Including the last two points of the first half, it was a 16-0 run, UK’s longest of the season.
- Grant Williams shot Tennessee’s first free throws of the game with 16:07 remaining.
- Kentucky got into bonus free throws with 14:53 on the clock.
- UK got its largest lead at 60-36 and then 62-38 with 12:37 remaining.
- Tennessee suddenly got hot and poured in 13 straight points in less than three minutes to pull within 62-51 but never got any closer.
- Washington stopped the run with a short banker and a pair of free throws to get the lead back to 66-51.
- Tennessee never got any closer than 11 as UK went on to win 86-69.
- Kentucky’s 17-point margin of victory is its largest ever against an AP No. 1-ranked team. The previous largest margin was 15 over No. 1 Florida in 2003.
- UK is 5-2 vs. Associated Press Top-25 foes this season.
- Kentucky is 7-15 all-time against AP No. 1 teams, including 2-2 under Coach Calipari.
- This is UK’s first win over an AP No. 1 since defeating Ohio State in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
- UK shot 54.7 percent from the field tonight, the Wildcats’ 10th game this season of at least 50 percent.
- Kentucky won the rebounding 39-26 and points in the paint 36-20.
- UK is now 19-2 this season when winning/tying the rebounding and 18-3 when prevailing in the paint.
- The Wildcats have won 11 of its last 12 games. During that 12-game span, UK has …
- Limited the opponents to 38.6 percent from the field.
- Limited the opponents to 31.4 percent from 3-point range.
- Limited the opponents to 60.9 points per game.
- PJ Washington led the way with 23 points, the fourth straight game he has led the Wildcats.
- Had two key stretches of points – UK’s first seven of the game, then had four in a row after Tennessee had its 13-0 run in the second half.
- It is his ninth 20-point game of the season and his seventh in the last eight games.
- He is averaging 21 points over the last eight games.
- He has 10 straight games in double figures.
- He’s the first player to do that since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored in double figures in 10 straight games from Feb. 20, 2018 to March 22, 2018.
- Keldon Johnson tallied 19 points, sparked by his 11-point spurt midway in the first half.
- He made 3 of 6 on 3-pointers. UK is 5-0 this season when he makes at least three 3-pointers.
- Tyler Herro posted his first collegiate double-double with 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.
- UK is 12-0 this season when he scores at least 15.
- Went 8 of 9 at the foul line tonight, but his miss ended a string of 30 consecutive free throws made. For the season, he is shooting 91.4 percent at the foul line.
- Reid Travis earned his way to the foul line 10 times, making seven, and finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
- Ashton Hagans had nine points, most since the Kansas game, and had seven assists.
- UK is 6-0 this season when Hagans has at least seven assists.
- Calipari is now 296-68 at UK.
- He is one win away from tying Joe B. Hall for the second-most victories by a UK head coach in program history.
- Calipari has a 741-208 all-time on-court record.
- UK is 57-28 vs. AP ranked competition under Calipari.
- Calipari is 5-4 in his career vs. the No. 1 team, 2-2 while at Kentucky.
- UK is 48-12 in bounce-back games under Calipari, including 4-0 this season.