It took them over two months, but the Kentucky Wildcats finally has a victory over a Top-25 opponent, and boy was it a big one.
The Wildcats pulled off a shocking upset on Saturday, defeating the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers in a 63-56 nail-biter at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Kentucky announced just seven minutes before tip-off that starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler would miss the game due to a shoulder injury, while Daimion Collins joined him with an injured left foot.
For a team that was already struggling, being down two key pieces with veteran experience was not an ideal situation — especially on the road against a top-tier team as 13-point underdogs.
Kentucky took another shot to their core in the first half when Cason Wallace left the court for the second-straight game due to back spasms. He was able to return, but missed nearly half of the first 20 minutes.
The Wildcats didn’t score for the first five minutes, dealt with multiple injuries, overcame several terrible calls by officials, and still managed to come out with the victory in what was an incredibly physical game.
They’ll have to prove they can play this way for more than one game, but two months from now, fans could look back on this Saturday as the game that changed the season for head coach John Calipari’s team.
With Wheeler out and Wallace dealing with back spasms, Kentucky fans have to tip their hat to the duo of Antonio Reeves and CJ Fredrick. Fredrick kept the Wildcats out in front during the first half with 10 points through the first 20 minutes.
Reeves, who had five first half points, finished with a team-high 18 points and made all eight of his free throws.
Normally these two are just asked to make open shots that are created for them or make an occasional cut to the basket. But on Saturday they (along with Adou Thiero) were asked to handle the ball for a majority of the game and make plays for others.
It was a tough spot for anyone to be in but Kentucky’s backcourt handled the adversity well and excelled down the stretch to clinch the victory.