The Kentucky Wildcats came out fighting with a purpose against the No. 11 team in the nation on Saturday night.
The game was physical early resulting in a slew of fouls called on Tennessee, and UK was able to take advantage by making all but two of their 15 free throw attempts in the first half.
Despite it being ugly at times, it was still probably one of Kentucky’s best stretches of the season considering they held an eight-point halftime lead on a top 25 team.
Seeing the ball go through the net was a very welcome sight for anyone who follows the Kentucky men’s basketball program. The scoring was great but the willingness to fight was the most encouraging part of the first twenty minutes of play.
With hopes of an at-large bid long gone it’ll be important for this team to stay engaged in preparation for the SEC tournament.
Lead by sophomore Keion Brooks, Kentucky ignited the Rupp Arena crowd and kept applying pressure in half No. 2.
Brooks would finish with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
However, the Vols are ranked where they are for a reason, and they fought back to tie the game with just under eight minutes to play.
At that media timeout break, Kentucky fans begin to fear what has plagued this team for several weeks now — finishing out a game.
Collapsing down the stretch has no doubt cost Kentucky numerous wins and totally changed the makeup of their season.
Saturday night, history repeated itself as UK squandered yet another opportunity late in a close game.
John Calipari saw a double-digit second half lead be reversed to the Vols. Another predictable offensive drought drove the nail in the coffin of this game. Kentucky was absolutely dominated by Vols when it mattered most.
The Cats fall to 5-12 on the season, and as you can imagine, Twitter was ablaze with hot takes.
Here is a chronological mash up of fan and media reaction to the disappointing loss.
Last time we wore grey: 2012 vs. Tennessee— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 7, 2021
How’d that turn out? pic.twitter.com/gciAOCzLjK
The first five in gray tonight. pic.twitter.com/eqbv8xNlvm— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 7, 2021
Cal toyed with idea of not starting Sarr in hopes of eliminating early foul trouble. But Sarr is starting along with Askew, Boston, Jackson and Mintz.— Jerry Tipton (@JerryTipton) February 7, 2021
Terrence Clarke is wearing street clothes, appears he will be out again this evening, as expected. Has not played since December due to an ankle injury.— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) February 7, 2021
Oscar Tshiebwe is also with the team for the first time this season, standing off to the side during warmups pic.twitter.com/vFuUGmeeM5— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) February 7, 2021
Jerseys look fine.— T.J. Walker (@TJWalkerRadio) February 7, 2021
And now Santiago Vescovi picks up his second foul. Some early foul trouble for the Vols.— Derek Terry (@DerekSTerry) February 7, 2021
Six fouls on Tennessee in the first four minutes? #BrokenSport— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) February 7, 2021
KY is now in the bonus for the remaining of the half with 14:09 to go. #BBN— Jordan Smith (@jsmithwx) February 7, 2021
Just let Brooks, Mintz, and Jackson play 3 on 5.— Billy Sewell (@GoCayts) February 7, 2021
This is a wild accumulation of fouls by Tennessee. Now eight in the first seven minutes. Keion Brooks with a nice post-up bucket, then a pair of free throws, for the 14-10 Kentucky lead. Cats can and should apply pressure by attacking and keep the whistles coming (or get layups).— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) February 7, 2021
7 minutes into this game both teams are nauseating, the refs are nauseating, Dick is nauseating....— Mitch Handegan (@WeWantMitch) February 7, 2021
Update: The refs aren't the problem. These teams want to fight.— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) February 7, 2021
BLOCK! Jacob Toppin is in the game— BBN Tonight (@BBNTonight) February 7, 2021
Devin Askew just beat his man off the dribble, scored and got fouled. We have not seen that much from him.— Derek Terry (@DerekSTerry) February 7, 2021
What a start for the 'Cats. Sarr nailing a three, 9/9 from the charity stripe and ZERO turnovers in 11 minutes.— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) February 7, 2021
Kentucky missing SO MANY bunnies. Poor Lance Ware, fighting like hell, now 0 for 3, all from point-blank.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) February 7, 2021
Man, this team might be the most in need of a three hour long layup line of any team I can remember. They have so many misses from inside four feet this season.— ESPN Radio Lexington (@ESPNRadioLex) February 7, 2021
Outstanding assist by Askew to Brooks for the dunk. 48-39 Kentucky, 16:54 left.— ESPN Radio Lexington (@ESPNRadioLex) February 7, 2021
Loved that burst by Devin Askew to set up the finish for Keion Brooks. Might be Askew's best play of the year.— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) February 7, 2021
15:47 2H | UK 48, Tennessee 41. UK shot 3-5 from the floor in the first segment of this half, Tennessee just 2-8.— Derek Terry (@DerekSTerry) February 7, 2021
There might not be many people here right now at Rupp Arena but the place is loud and into the game. Good atmosphere amongst the cardboard cutouts.— Brandon Ramsey (@BRamseyKSR) February 7, 2021
Solid game by Askew has translated to team success tonight.— Terrence (@RoyalnessT) February 7, 2021
This is a huge SEC game with major implications. If UK pulls this off it could change this season's direction of both programs.— Tom Hart (@tom_hart) February 7, 2021
19 and 10 for Keion Brooks. Far and away his best game as a Wildcat.— Jesse Riffe (@JesseRiffe) February 7, 2021
Probably the loudest Rupp Arena has been all season on that slam by BJ Boston. UK leads Tennessee 58-48 with 11:57 to go.— Derek Terry (@DerekSTerry) February 7, 2021
They might prove me wrong but I have zero confidence Kentucky pulls this out. At some point they have to win one of these, right?— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) February 7, 2021
This isn't the same as the games they have lost late. This was UK getting tight on offense around the 12 minute mark.— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) February 7, 2021
And just like that, Kentucky lets go of the rope. 10-0 run for Tennessee in the last 1:36— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) February 7, 2021
What a turn of events. UK on the verge of getting blown out now.— Brandon Ramsey (@BRamseyKSR) February 7, 2021
If there’s one predictable thing about Kentucky Basketball this season, it’s the fact they will inevitably collapse at the end of the game. That’s regardless of how well they’ve played for the first 35ish minutes.— Bryan Kennedy (@BKennedyTV) February 7, 2021
We would be having a great year if the games were 30 mins long!— Big Blue Nation David (@BigBlueNationD1) February 7, 2021
Truly unbelievable collapse— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) February 7, 2021
Everything UK was doing right...literally everything...has completely fallen apart
Kentucky “fans” booing their own players now. Cute.— Dr.SicilianoCalipari (@TheErinCalipari) February 7, 2021
Death. Taxes. And a complete second half crash by this Kentucky team might be the only things guaranteed in life.— Cats Coverage (@CatsCoverage_) February 7, 2021
It was 58-48 UK.... It is now 74-64 UT..... unreal!— Jay in Lyndon (@bigbluegoose) February 7, 2021
rick barnes is 7-5 against kentucky at UT. third win in Rupp.— Dick Weiss (@HoopsWeiss) February 7, 2021
FINAL: Tennessee 82, Kentucky 71.— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) February 7, 2021
Keion Brooks: 23 points, 11 rebounds
Kentucky: 25/65 FGs (38.5%) | 4/17 threes (23.5%)
UK led by 10 points with 12:00 left.
Kentucky leads by 10 with 12 minutes to go, and Tennessee closes out the game on a 34-13 run.— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) February 7, 2021
UT beats UK 82-71.
Tennessee has now won 3 of the last 4 games in Rupp Arena and 6 of the last 9 overall vs Kentucky— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) February 7, 2021
Between 1964 and 2019, Kentucky was 20-0 against Tennessee at home when they led by at least 8 points at halftime. In the last 2 seasons, Kentucky has lost to Tennessee at home with halftime leads of 11 and 8 points, respectively.— Corey Price (@coreyp08) February 7, 2021