Kentucky's confidence soars after holding onto lead at Tennessee

Nick Roush02/20/21


Article written by:On3 imageNick Roush


[caption id="attachment_339602" align="aligncenter" width="2245"] Photo via SEC[/caption] For the first time in a long time, Kentucky started the game on fire and never gave up a big lead. Despite a poor shooting effort in the second half, the Wildcats won 70-55 at Tennessee. "It was extremely important to know that we can do that," Keion Brooks said after the game. "We can build decent leads and finally bury a team and put a team away. It felt good to be able to keep our foot on the gas the whole time." Davion Mintz was the first player to put his foot on the pedal. He hit his first five three-pointers to help UK lead by as much as 17 in the first half. "I was burning up at the beginning," Mintz said. "It's extremely helpful to do that at the beginning of the game and kind of take the air from the other team." Somebody threw cold water on Mintz and the rest of the Cats. They made just 6-of-29 field goals in the second half, 20.7% from the field. At one point, Mintz told a teammate, "My gun is jammed." It did not matter, thanks to excellent defense and top notch free throw shooting. "We had to do something. For us to keep that lead, that was huge," Mints said. "It showed the past three, four games for us to continue to fight through the last six, five, four minutes, that's a huge improvement." Kentucky had second half leads in nine of their 13 losses this year. Earlier this week against Vanderbilt a double digit first half lead evaporated in the second half as the Cats struggled to cling to victory. When adversity strikes, the Cats aren't panicking anymore. "We're a lot better," Brooks said. "We're starting to come together as a team, starting to believe in one another, believe in the coaching staff. We're really starting to realize that we all need each other to win. We emphasize it everyday, us coming together and relying on one another to get it done." They're getting it done at the right time. The SEC Tournament is 18 days away. "The fans and all the anxiety, the fact that we started off that hot and kept it going for an entire game, that was huge for us and our confidence. I think we owed them one, it was big for us to come in and do it," Mintz said. "That's huge for us, especially everything we've been through already this season, to go on the road especially at this team right now, that's huge. It's exactly what we needed to gather momentum toward heading into March."

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