#7 Tennessee beats down #4 Kentucky 71-52 on their home floor in a game to forget for the visitors.
The Cats didn’t exactly get to ease their way into the month of March by playing a top 10 team on the road. Kentucky traveled to Knoxville for a difficult game that carried a lot of consequence in terms of seeding for the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
Reid Travis was ruled out a few hours before the game, without his presence in the paint, it was obvious that the Cats would need to step up and play tough down low while also battling against the rowdy Thompson-Boling Arena crowd.
Before tip-off it was reported that there was little to no blue in the stands. So it is fair to say, even with all of the tough games Kentucky has been in this season, playing #7 Tennessee on the road, was likely the toughest challenge to date and it showed.
The Cats didn’t waiver early, going on a 6-0 run to start the game. The Vols followed up with a 5-0 run of their own by pounding the glass with second chance points. Without Travis, giving up offensive rebounds was an issue early and Tennessee came out playing some ferocious man-to-man defense. As expected, the game began physical, and Tennessee lead 15-14 at the under 12 minute timeout in the first half.
Two fouls sent PJ Washington to the bench around the 8 minute mark and Tennessee responded by charging out to a 23-18 lead. Things got worse from there, a lot worse.
The Cats went on a nine and a half minute scoring drought and looked abysmal on offense. Coach Calipari received a technical foul and Kentucky shot 6-26 from the field. It was brutal to watch.
Jordan Bone’s 12 points fueled the Vols and Kentucky’s horrible shooting allowed them to dominate the first 20 minutes by a score of 37-24. Credit to Tennessee for their intense defense and making the Cats look awful. It was one of the games where all you wanted was for the halftime buzzer to sound.
The wheels fell off early in the second half as the Vols pushed their lead to 20 points in just four minutes of gameplay. Kentucky’s offense improved but there remained no answer for Jordan Bone who picked apart the Cats at every opportunity. Bone had 19 points on 8/11 shooting and Tennessee was up 52-36 at the under 12 timeout.
Nothing went right for Kentucky the entire game and having considerable foul trouble didn’t help matters much. Another long scoring drought in the second half sealed UK’s fate down in Knoxville. Kentucky finished the game 14-44 from the field.
Jordan Bone scored 27 points on the day.
Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, and Ashton Hagans did very little to help their team win in a game where the back-court was much needed.
Kentucky had 17 turnovers and 14 fields goals which says it all.
Oh, well. We all knew that this game would be difficult to win. It’s likely that there will be a round 3 between these two teams, which should be a gem on a neutral court.
It was a challenging game to find an MVP but Nick Richards provided above average stats for Kentucky today. He finished the game with 8 points and 7 rebounds. Richards still made plenty of mistakes but he was hitting the glass hard every possession. Foul troubles really limited what he could do but props for the effort.
Before this game started I thought that it would take a conference player of the year type performance from PJ Washington in order for Kentucky to beat the Vols on the road. That surely didn’t happen.
The tone was not set by PJ Washington as it had been in past games and that resulted in Kentucky looking lost on both ends of the court.
He was able to get a little bit going in the second half but it was by far too little, too late for Washington and the Cats.
It was a tall task to win in Knoxville without Reid Travis and PJ Washington playing below par. The guards need those guys playing well in order to get their own offense going. It just wasn’t there today.
Kentucky needs PJ Washington to regroup and lead them, especially if Reid Travis is to miss any further action.
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