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No. 22 Vols routed by No. 18 Wildcats, 107-79, in Rupp Arena

Tennessee looked outmatched from the start.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 18 Tennessee Volunteers (11-5, 2-3) came into Rupp Arena looking to win its third straight game in the home of the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats (13-3, 4-1), but instead found a buzzsaw that was, in fact, the Wildcats.

The Vols never had a chance as they went down 14-5 early and saw as much as a 32-point deficit during the game. Kentucky dominated the game down low and outscored the Vols, 34-11, in the paint while TyTY Washington led the way with a career-high 28-points on 10-of-13 shooting that included a 2-of-4 mark from 3.

Tennessee committed 20 turnovers on the night and it was the first time the program has allowed an opponent to score 100+ points since 2006. It was the first time the Wildcats scored 100+ since 2001.

Santiago Vescovi led the Vols with 20-points on 7-of-10 shooting that included 4-of-6 from 3, but it was nowhere near enough as Tennessee suffered its worse loss of the 2021-2022 season.

The Vols won the toss and Olivier Nkamhoua instantly made a jumper to give the Volsa. 2-0 lead right off the bat, but four straight points pushed the Wildcats into the lead before Kennedy Chandler’s 3-pointer recaptured the lead for the Vols.

Kentucky made its first five shots of the game, which helped build a 10-0 run. The Wildcats started 5-of-5 from the floor, including 2-of-2 from 3 as it created a 14-5 deficit for the Vols. Vescovi’s 3-pointer ended the run, but the Cats still led, 14-8, with 15:05 to go in the first period.

Both teams nearly went two full minutes without a bucket, but Blake Toppen ended the scoring drought with a dunk to make it a 16-8 Wildcat lead. Chandler responded on Tennessee’s next possession with a layup to make it a six-point game, again. A Josiah Jordan-James cut Kentucky’s lead to just one possession, but Wildcat offense continued to battle back and kept the lead around two possessions at 20-15 with 11:24 left in the first half.

Tennessee struggled to defend Kentucky in the paint, which resulted in the Wildcats holding a 5-8 point lead over the next few minutes of the game. Davion Mintz started to take over with an impressive baseline dunk and then a 3 a few possessions later to help push his team’s lead to 39-30 with 4:59 to go. Mintz was second on the team with seven points at this moment in the game.

The Vols continued to keep it respectable and within reach, but fell apart in the final 2-1/2 minutes of the first half. Tennessee went on a run where it shot 1-of-3 and committed two turnovers over five of the last six possessions before Jordan-James hit a layup right before the buzzer. As a result, Kentucky led, 52-38, at halftime.

The Wildcats were shooting a ridiculous 78.6% from the floor that included 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. The Vols hit their shots an efficient rate of 53.% overall with 46.2% from 3. It was Kentucky’s dominance in the paint that was making the biggest difference and is what allowed the Cats to make such a high percentage of their shots. Kentucky was good for 24 points in the paint compared to Tennessee’s 12.

Nothing improved for the Vols in the opening minutes of the second half, especially for Chandler. The freshman point guard was benched after he picked up his second and third foul within a two minute span. Tennessee shot 2-of-5 from the field and committed two turnovers, which allowed Kentucky to continue to build its lead. The Cats now led, 64-43, with 16:46 left in the second period.

Washington and the Cats continued to pour it on. The lead extended to 79-50 with 12:19 to go and the Vols looked like they didn’t even belong on the same court as the Wildcats.

The lead eventually grew past 30 points, but Tennessee was able to knock it back down into the mid-20s over the following possessions. The Vols could never get past that mark, however, and went on to lose, 107-79.

The Vols will travel to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores (9-6, 1-2) Tuesday night. Tip-off is currently scheduled for 8pm E.T. on January 18.