Kentucky gave great effort in the second half to overcome a 19-point deficit, but were unable to finish the game with a win as No. 17 Tennessee held on for a 74-65 victory.
The Wildcats (27-2, 12-2 SEC) fought an uphill battle all day following an early 18-0 run by Tennessee. At the 11:22 mark of the first half, Kentucky was already down 18-4 and the Volunteers took a 40-29 lead into the halftime locker room.
Kentucky spent much of the second half trying to climb back into the game after falling behind by as many as 19 points. The lead was trimmed to 10 points about midway through the half and then 8 points at the under 8:00 media timeout.
Finally, with 2:10 remaining in the game, the Cats fought all the way back to tie the Volunteers (21-7, 9-5 SEC). The effort used to make the comeback seemed to drain Kentucky and they were unable to complete the comeback with a victory.
A key sequence late was an ill-advised John Wall turnover followed by a Scotty Hopson three-pointer on the other end. Kentucky was unable to recover and the game was essentially over.
I feel the game was ultimately won/lost by three things:
Tennessee played a tough 2-3 matchup zone for most of the day and the Wildcats could never quite figure it out; the zone seemed to eliminate Kentucky's post play, which has been a key this season. The Cats resorted to outside shooting and finished the game 2-22 (9.1%) from beyond the 3-point line.
Kentucky's interior and transition defense was terrible today; the Volunteers literally sliced the UK defense for open layups and easy jumpers in the paint on a regular basis; several times today, UT players drove the ball coast-to-coast for momentum-breaking layups
The key series late when Wall turned the ball over in the paint and Hopson nailed a 3-pointer at the other end was literally the proverbial nail in the coffin series that led to the UT victory; the next time down following Hopson's shot, Wall was called for an offensive foul that closed the door on any UK hopes
Key Individual Stats:
J.P. Prince 6-10 FG, 2-4 3PT, 6-9 FT, 20 PTS
Scotty Hopson 6-14 FG, 1-6 3PT, 2-3 FT, 15 PTS, 4 REB
Wayne Chism 4-12 FG, 0-7 3PT, 8 PTS, 6 REB
Bobby Maze 4-7 FG, 1-3 3PT, 9 PTS, 5 AST
Cameron Tatum 3-7 FG, 1-4 3PT, 9 PTS, 5 REB
John Wall 6-16 FG, 0-4 3PT, 7-8 FT, 19 PTS, 6 AST, 5 REB, 5 TO
DeMarcus Cousins 4-10 FG, 7-9 FT, 15 PTS, 14 REB, 2 BLK
Darius Miller 3-9 FG, 1-5 3PT, 7 PTS, 4 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK
Patrick Patterson 4-6 FG, 2-4 FT, 10 PTS, 4 REB, 2 BLK
Eric Bledsoe 3-10 FG, 1-5 3PT, 2-2 FT, 9 PTS, 4 REB, 2 STL, 3 TO
Orton, Harris, Liggins, Dodson: 1-9 FG, 0-7 3PT, 5 PTS, 5 REB, 34 MIN
Team Stat Comparisons:
3PT Shooting: UK 2-22 UT 6-25
FG Shooting: UK 21-60 (35.0%) UT 28-59 (47.5%)
Rebounding: UK 38 UT 34
FT Shooting: UK 21-27 UT 12-17
- Today, UK went for season-lows in FG% and 3PT made
- Cousins had 15 and 14 for his 18th double-double on the season
- Let's face it, UK emptied the tanks in making a 19-point comeback and then were unable to finish the deal; some of that can be attributed to the short rest period, but at the end of the day - that's just too much of a hole to escape from
- After the game, John Calipari said simply, "You shoot two for 22 and it's 65-65? Wow..."
- The Kentucky bench did not produce very well today; the 4 reserves had 34 minutes, but only 5 points and 5 rebounds (all by Orton)
- As well as DeAndre Liggins has played lately, I was disappointed that he was unable to get anything going today
- What has happened to Dodson's outside shooting? 6 minutes and 0-5 from long range will not cut it for a player that is labelled our best 3-point shooter
- Cousins continues to be a beast in the paint, but the Cats were unable or unwilling to get him the ball today; it was mostly due to the UT zone defense, but there were several times when Cousins was open and should have had the ball
- 2-22 from long range...2-22? Wow.
- I fully expected some key adjustments coming out in the second half and a UK comeback victory; instead, UK fell behind 47-31 early and their backs against the wall
- What does a loss mean at this point? It's a loss, but it isn't that damaging in the grand scheme of things; UK is still on pace for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and they are still one of the favorites to win the national championship; they will still win the SEC title as well - today just delays the inevitable in that regard
- I'm a UK homer, of course, but let's call a spade a spade: John Wall's chances in winning National Player of the Year are on life support at this point; They are not entirely hopeless, but it will take something special
- Let's face it, it's never easy to win on the road in the SEC (or any other conference) and today was one of those games that too many things happened to prevent a UK win; the officiating was a little inconsistent, the crowd was rabid, momentum was on UT's side, blah blah blah; life on the road in the SEC
- The key now is for the Cats to put this one behind them and focus so that Georgia doesn't hand us another road loss on Wednesday.