Coming in to Tuesday evening’s game, Kentucky was playing as good of basketball as anyone else in the country.
Of course, the Wildcats’ ranking in the Associated Press wasn’t calling for a one-seed in the current bracket projections. However, Kentucky was certainly knocking on the door. The word “was” is relevant because their lack of paint defense on Tuesday evening will most likely keep the Wildcats from receiving any bids for a one-seed.
Kentucky’s big men allowed Tennessee’s John Fulkerson to come into Rupp Arena and spoil the team’s final home game of the 2019-2020 season. Averaging just 13.1 PPG this season, Fulkerson is certainly a respectable player in the Southeastern Conference. However, one would think SEC Player of the Year candidate Nick Richards would have been able to contain Fulkerson from double his season average of points.
That of course didn’t happen, though, as Fulkerson led all scorers with a career-high 27 points and the Volunteers beat the Wildcats by a score of 81-73. Kentucky led at the half, 42-31, but their efficient shooting in the first period came to a screeching halt over the last 20 minutes of action. The Wildcats couldn’t make a basket late down the stretch while Tennessee appeared to simply want the victory more, winning all of the 50/50 balls and knocking down open shots off of ball movement.
Kentucky came into the game ranked in the top 25 in two-point defense but allowed the Vols to hit 20/35 two-pointers for a blistering 57.1%. For comparison, Auburn hit just 13/29 two-pointers in the previous game.
As Kentucky heads to Florida to round out their regular season, they’ll need to quickly check their paint defense. Kerry Blackshear Jr. scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds in a close loss to Kentucky ten days ago, and will surely be looking to avenge that game on Saturday.
Tip-off for Kentucky-Florida is set for 1 pm EST.