No matter what happened down in Knoxville on Saturday afternoon there was going to be some emotional reactions from the Big Blue Nation.
John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats came in with their backs against the wall facing a top 5 team on the road.
But not just any top 5 team, one of UK’s biggest rivals, the Tennessee Volunteers.
The game could not have begun any worse for Kentucky. The Vols started on an 8-0 run, and it looked as if it was going to be a long, painful afternoon.
Not so fast — the Cats did anything but fold and would storm out to a 10-0 run of their own.
A mixture of CJ Fredrick’s offense and consistently matching the physicality that the game warranted.
Fredrick would lead all scorers in the first half with 10 points and Kentucky was up 33-26 at the break.
You’d need shoulder pads and a helmet to play in the second half. It was one of the more physical games that I can remember watching.
By design, UT’s Uros Plavsic was a thorn in UK’s side all afternoon.
Kentucky went punch for punch with Tennessee for the duration of the game. It was an absolute war and one of the more entertaining halves of basketball that you’ll see.
Was it pretty? No.
Was it flawless? No.
Was it inspiring? Yes.
The Cats surprise us all and out tough the Vols with a final score of 63-56.
Antonio Reeves balled out in the second half and ended up leading Kentucky in scoring with 18 points. Oscar Tshiebwe would add 15 points and 13 rebounds and CJ Fredrick finished with 13.
What a win.
First five for the Cats ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/0H9pZyM8Cp— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 14, 2023
How many times are we going to hear Good Ole Rocky Top today. Cmon kitty cats— Shaun Dunn (@Dunn30) January 14, 2023
Uros Plavsic scores right over Oscar Tshiebwe on Tennessee's first possession. Then a steal-and-layup by Santiago Vescovi.— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) January 14, 2023
Kentucky with two turnovers and a missed shot on its first three possessions.
Looks like it's going to be a long two hours again.— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) January 14, 2023
Kentucky puts in the lineup we have all wanted and immediately the game changes— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) January 14, 2023
Wallace-CJ-Reeves-Toppin and Oscar is the best version of this team
If I can take a positive moment from this game so far, Tyler Ulis immediately hopped up to coach Cason Wallace when he headed to the sideline. Cool sight.— Grant Grubbs (@grant_grubbs_) January 14, 2023
Proud of how the team has responded so far. Keep fighting!— Mike Willis (@michael_willis1) January 14, 2023
BOOM!!! There we go, ‘Cats!!!— Brandon Ramsey (@BRamseyKSR) January 14, 2023
Great job by Antonio Reeves & CJ Fredrick for shooting through early misses. Kentucky running some good offensive action.
Locked in defensively during that segment too. Good to see.
Kentucky got punched in the mouth early and they are fighting back. Will they keep fighting the whole game?— Kelly Thompson (@FantasyFballNut) January 14, 2023
This team isn’t giving up yet. After starting down 8, they’re now on a 13-2 run in Knoxville. Cats take the lead.— Tres Terrell (@TerrellTres) January 14, 2023
After starting the game 0-6, the Wildcats have since shot 5-8. Good response to that start by Tennessee. #BBN— Keith Farmer (@KeithFarmer18) January 14, 2023
TV TO (11:26): Kentucky 13, No. 5 Tennessee 10. Cats on 13-2 run, CJ Fredrick has scored 8-straight points for UK— Mark Story (@markcstory) January 14, 2023
Lance Ware in for Toppin.— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) January 14, 2023
Adou Thiero in for Wallace.
UK's Twitter dream lineup outscored Tennessee 13-6 in that stretch. (And then Fredrick sinks two FTs).
Kentucky 15, Tennessee 14.
Officials making sure things are balanced back out now. https://t.co/v1upOkRhL6— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) January 14, 2023
Reeves + Fredrick in the game together >— BBN Tonight (@BBNTonight) January 14, 2023
I like how Kentucky has played today. Wheeler does the best he can and it sometimes works but they are better off playing this way.— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) January 14, 2023
Adou is once again showing why he needs to play more.— Austin Miller (@AustinMillerTV) January 14, 2023
Takeaway no matter how this ends: Reeves and Fredrick have to play more together.— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) January 14, 2023
Love seeing different players getting hot at different points in this game. CJ Fredrick early in the first, Oscar Tshiebwe to end to half, and Antonio Reeves right now. Quality minutes by Adou Thiero too— Maggie Davis (@MaggieDavisTV) January 14, 2023
Would still love to see Cason Wallace take over down the stretch
All tied up at 48 with 5:50 to go until CJ Fredrick buries a huge 3-pointer.— Hunter Shelton (@HunterShelton_) January 14, 2023
Cats lead by 3.
This entire game has been 5 Kentucky players vs 8 Tennessee players— Trey (@TreyFurn22) January 14, 2023
Listen I know people are going to freak out about the free throw difference but these officials still have not been good.— Locked On Kentucky (@LockedOnUK) January 14, 2023
Oscar has took it to the chest all day. Great fight from both him & Toppin on Plavšić today— Mitch B (@MitchBTV_) January 14, 2023
VOL TEARS— walt (@walllltttt) January 14, 2023
GO. BIG. BLUE.— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 14, 2023
Having a PG along with two wings who can stretch the floor is just a recipe for success in modern basketball. You have that, defend, & rebound. Succes should just follow. Nice win today. @BRamseyKSR— John Riley (@J11Riley) January 14, 2023
IT IS 32 DEGREES AND IM IN NOTHING BUT A JERSEY AND SHORTS AND CANT FEEL A DAMN THING BUT HAPPINESS— Matt Sad (@MattSakBBN) January 14, 2023
SHAME ON ALL OF YALL WHO DOUBTED US pic.twitter.com/KpIotVRujg
John Calipari now at the podium: "Antonio was the most impactful player."— Hunter Shelton (@HunterShelton_) January 14, 2023
Mentions the injuries, having to play Adou Thiero at the point.
but not for us ... pic.twitter.com/Z07MELWP9s— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 14, 2023