The Kentucky Wildcats had to make a trip to Knoxville for their rematch with the Tennessee Volunteers
Kentucky came out of the gate strong, as Nick Richards threw down a big dunk, and Ashton Hagans knocked down a three to give the Cats a quick 6-0 lead.
However, Tennessee answered with a 9-0 run of their own to take the lead. From that point, each team battled back and forth and exchanged leads.
But with 8:23 left in the half, the Cats trailed 19-18 and PJ Washington left the game with his second foul.
From then on, the Vols outscored the Cats 18-6 and took a 37-24 lead into the break.
It was just that kind of day for the Cats, as the Vols’ lead swelled to 20 quick in the second half, 47-27.
Kentucky made a small run to cut the lead back down to 14, as a dunk by EJ Montgomery made it 50-36.
However, Tennessee answered with a run of their own, and the Cats were never able to get it back down to single digits as the Vols rolled to a 71-52 victory.
Thoughts on the game
Horrible shooting performance
One thing this team has done well this year is show up on the road and put together a solid performance, no matter the opponent.
That was far from the case in this one, as the Cats made a total of 14 field goals for the game. They were 14/44 (31.8%) for the game and 5/19 (26.3%) from three. It was just their second true road loss of the season.
The Cats also didn’t knock down enough free throws as they were 19/29 (65.5%) from the line. While not bad, they needed to step up in this area to account for their lack of shooting.
When you are on the road and don’t shoot well from the field, that is a recipe for a loss and that’s exactly what happened in this one.
Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, and Ashton Hagans didn’t show up
When three of your go-to guys don’t show up and play at a high level, it will be hard to win. Unfortunately for Kentucky, the three guys it needed to step up turned in one of their worst outings of the season.
Johnson, Herro and Hagans were a combined 6/26 from the floor, and none of them scored in double digits. They also had 10 turnovers combined vs. just seven turnovers and one steal.
It was really disappointing to see Herro struggle to much after his strong road outings in prior games, not to mention his 29-point outing vs. Arkansas on Tuesday. Perhaps the Achilles issue he had in that game lingered into Knoxville.
For this team to make a deep run in March, at least two of the three must show up every night, and when none of them do, you see what the result is.
This team needs Reid Travis back
Travis is the perfect player to have for a game like this when you need a tough guy to battle in the post.
In the first matchup, Travis was outstanding as he played excellent defense all game and almost finished with a double-double. He also was key in keeping Grant Williams contained throughout the matchup while also helping free up PJ Washington in the paint.
But without Travis, that paved the way for Williams to score 24 points on 7/13 shooting. It also made it tougher for Washington to defend the paint, and he ended up with two fouls within the first 12 minutes.
This team will most likely have to play one more game without him, and once they get him back, this team should look completely different.
This sets up for an excellent rubber match
Now that Kentucky is likely to be the three seed in the SEC Tournament, it will most likely set up a Saturday, semi-final battle with the Vols.
Each team dominated on their home court, and Schofield gave the Cats some extra motivation by choosing to dunk that ball as time expired.
If each team takes care of business, the third meeting of the season will be a very fun matchup. It also may very well determine which, if either of these teams gets a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cats will hit the road again as they travel to face Ole Miss on Tuesday night. That game will tip-off at 9:00 pm EST on ESPN.
Now, here are the postgame notes and milestones via UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
· Kentucky falls to 24-5 overall and 13-3 in the Southeastern Conference, falling a game behind Tennessee and LSU for the league lead.
· Tennessee is now 26-3 and 14-2 in SEC play.
· Kentucky still leads the most played series in school history 155-72.
o UK leads 54-52 in games played in Knoxville, Tennessee, but Tennessee has won four straight at Thompson-Boling Arena. That’s UK’s longest losing streak on the road to Tennessee since dropping seven straight in Knoxville from 1979 to 1985.
· UK is now 12-9 vs. Tennessee when both teams are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
· Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats enter the final week of the regular season, starting with a trip to Ole Miss on Tuesday. That game is slated for a 9 p.m. ET tip on ESPN.
In the First Half
· Kentucky started the combination of Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington and Nick Richards for the first time this season.
o Reid Travis missed his third straight game with a sprained right knee. His timetable for a return was at least two weeks from the injury, which occurred Feb. 19 at Missouri.
· UK jumped out to a 6-0 lead to start the game, featuring a slick lob pass from Herro to Richards for a dunk followed by a Hagans 3-pointer.
· Tennessee answered with a 9-0 run that lasted 3:15 of game time. Richards ended it with a free throw.
· The Volunteers pulled in front 28-18 on a 9-0 run from the 8:38 mark to the 4:03 mark. Kentucky went scoreless for 4:59 until Richards hit a free throw at the 3:39 mark.
· The Wildcats dealt with foul trouble nearly all half. EJ Montgomery picked up his second foul at the 9:55 mark mark and his third at 5:00, Washington was charged with his second with 8:23 (and went to the bench for the rest of the half), Johnson got his second at 5:16, and Richards picked up No. 2 at the 2:59 mark and No. 3 at 2:17.
o When Washington went to the bench with his second foul, the Wildcats were outscored 18-6 until halftime.
· After a Johnson floater at the 10:23 mark, Kentucky went without a field goal for 9:32 of game time until Jemarl Baker Jr. hit a 3 pointer from the left corner with 51 seconds left in the half.
· UK’s six field goals and 23.1-percent shooting were both first-half lows this season
o The six made field goals were behind only the five made in the second half vs. Missouri on Feb. 19.
o The 23.1 percent was a low for any half.
In the Second Half
· Kentucky opened with the same starting five: Hagans, Herro, Johnson, Washington and Richards.
· After falling behind by 20 points, the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run – highlighted by five points from Immanuel Quickley – to cut Tennessee’s lead to 47-34. The Wildcats would never get any closer.
· UK did not score over the final 3:22 of the game.
· UK’s road winning streak was stopped at six games. It was the longest road winning streak since the magical 2014-15 season.
· Kentucky is now 5-3 vs. AP Top 25 opponents and 3-2 vs. top-10 foes.
· UK scored a season-low 52 points, four fewer than the previous low.
o It’s the fewest points the Wildcats have scored since netting just 48 in a loss to Vanderbilt on March 15, 2013, in the SEC Tournament.
· Kentucky shot a season-low 31.8 percent.
o That’s UK’s lowest field-goal percentage since shooting 31.5 percent at Missouri on Feb. 3, 2018.
· UK made just 14 file goals, tying the fewest field goals UK made in one game during the Calipari era (March 1, 2014 at South Carolina).
· After dominating the Volunteers 36-20 in points in the paint in the first matchup in Lexington, Kentucky scored just 10 on Saturday. Tennessee scored 28.
o UK fell to 3-2 when getting outscored in the paint.
· It’s just the third time in 23 games UK has lost when winning the rebounding battle.
· PJ Washington led UK with 13 points despite foul trouble in the first half.
· He’s scored in double figures in 13 of the last 14 game and 19 games overall.
· Nick Richards started for the third time this season and first time since Nov. 23 vs. Tennessee State. He scored eight points, hauled down seven rebounds and blocked three shots.
· He’s blocked three shots in each of the past three games
· UK dropped to 12-1 this season when Richards scores at least four points.
· Immanuel Quickley scored eight points on 3-of-5 shooting (2 of 4 from 3-point range).
· It was his best scoring output since he scored 12 on Jan. 12 against Vanderbilt.
· Calipari is 299-69 at UK, needing just one more win to become the fourth-fastest coach in NCAA Division I history to 300 wins at any school
· Calipari has a 744-200 all-time on-court record.
· Calipari fell to 57-29 vs. AP Top 25 opponents at Kentucky and 23-18 vs. the top 10.
· He is 80-52 when both opponents are ranked in the AP Top 25, including 49-25 at UK. He’s 26-17 all-time when both opponents are in the top 25 and 15-10 at UK.
· Calipari is 16-10 vs. Tennessee in his career.