Rapid Reaction: Kentucky manhandles No. 1 Tennessee in statement game for the young Wildcats
Saturday’s game between No. 1 Tennessee and No. 5 Kentucky lost a little bit of luster when the Wildcats fell at home to LSU on Tuesday night. However, Saturday’s action was still between two of the best teams in the country.
In Rupp Arena, though, only one team looked like an elite squad, and it was Kentucky. The Wildcats took a six-point lead into halftime and then exploded in the second half, coming out on fire and shutting down their foes.
The Wildcats were the more physical team all night, and it showed in the rebounding totals, as Kentucky held a 39-26 advantage in the rebounding category. That translated to an impressive 86-69 victory for the No. 5 team in the country.
Sometimes, the game of basketball is as simple as making shots, and the Vols were not making shots at all on Saturday. Even when they were getting open looks, shots were off the mark, often badly.
Meanwhile, in the paint, PJ Washington had another outstanding performance, outplaying reigning SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams. Washington finished an efficient 9-for-12 from the floor, scoring a game-high 23 points and grabbing five rebounds. Keldon Johnson (19 points), Tyler Herro (15 points) and Reid Travis (10 points) also scored in double figures and fellow starter Ashton Hagans had nine points and seven assists.
For the Vols, Williams did have a good night, scoring 16 points to go with eight boards, but it wasn’t enough to take down the Wildcats.
The Vols have to regroup quickly. After hosting Vanderbilt in the middle of the week, they travel down to Baton Rouge to take on the red-hot LSU Tigers. As for Kentucky, the Wildcats will head to Mizzou this week and then host Auburn in Lexington on Saturday.
The rematch between the Vols and Wildcats is set for March 2 in Knoxville. We’ll see if Rick Barnes can fix what went wrong this time around and do better on Tennessee’s home court in a couple of weeks.