The Kentucky Wildcats can finally add a marque win to what’s been a bare resume this season, upsetting the 19th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers 70-55 in Knoxville on Saturday.
The Wildcats, now 8-13 overall, have now pulled to .500 in conference play (7-7) and will take a three-game winning streak into Tuesday night’s matchup with Texas A&M at Rupp Arena.
On Saturday, Kentucky was able to redeem its recent loss to Tennessee, making quick work of the Volunteers in an explosive first half that saw Davion Mintz and Isaiah Jackson combine for 28 points as Kentucky went on an early 15-0 run to take a 45-30 lead at the half.
Mintz, a graduate transfer from Creighton, was a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point range in the first half for 15 points and Jackson was once against dominant, scoring 13 points and blocking two more shots to add to his league leading total.
Olivier Sarr opened the second half with four straight free throws and gave Kentucky its biggest lead of the game after his left hander off the glass pushed the lead to 58-38 at just over the 12:00 minute mark.
Jackson led Kentucky with 16 points, while Mintz stayed at 15. Keion Brooks also came up big off the bench, scoring 10 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Olivier Sarr also added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Kentucky has been on fire from the free throw line the past two games, going 24-for-25 against Vanderbilt and connecting on 17-for-20 in the win at Tennessee.
Davion Mintz just might be the Team MVP this season, gaining more confidence in his role as the team’s top offensive threat and leading Kentucky on its recent winning streak. His ability to shoot the three has opened up the lane for Jackson, Sarr and Toppin who have all been able to create more space in the post.
For the second straight game, Toppin was too good to take off the floor, playing 24 minutes and scoring six points with four rebounds. It looks like UK Coach John Calipari has settled in on a seven-man rotation that includes Mintz, Devin Askew, BJ Boston, Jackson, Sarr, Brooks and Toppin. Dontaie Allen and Lance Ware have both had minutes reduced and Terrence Clarke is seemingly done for the year with an injury.
Jackson continues to turn heads and has become more than just an elite defender, hitting free throws, showing an improved baseline jumper and driving to the basket with authority with some big dunks to finish plays.
With an improved offense, the Wildcats just might be primed for a deep run in the conference tournament which will be Kentucky’s only real hope for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Who was your MVP? Let us know in the comments section!
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