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HOOPS RECAP: Kentucky outlasts Vols in TBA, 63-56

The Cats snap a 25-game home winning streak for Tennessee

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Vols missed their final four shots — and numerous easy looks at the basket throughout the game — and Kentucky beat Tennessee 63-56.

Once again, Tennessee started this one out by scoring multiple baskets before its opponent scored a point.

The Vols led 8-0 by the under-16 media timeout, but UK’s Cason Wallace broke the Cat’s scoreless stretch with a steal that turned into a layup for Kentucky. Tennessee turned it over on the next possession, too, which caused Santiago Vescovi to leave the game and ended up as a Wildcat 3 on the other end. Vescovi was seen holding his previously-injured shoulder on the sidelines.

By the 14:08 mark, Tennessee hadn’t scored in four minutes and UK was back in the game at 8-5. Both teams exchanged some empty possessions, then Kentucky hit another 3 that tied the game. Uros Plavsic got called for a flagrant foul after the 3, too.

UK took the lead on its next possession, but Plavsic broke the 10-0 UK run with a bucket near the rim. Then UK’s CJ Frederick hit his second 3 of the game to put Kentucky back up 13-10 with 11:26 to play in the half. Frederick’s overall eight early points led all scorers.

Tennessee started the first four-ish minutes of the game without any turnovers, but after that under-16 timeout, the offense turned the ball over four times in six-ish minutes.

A Zakai Ziegler foul at the 10:16 mark put Kentucky into the bonus, though UK missed the front end of its first one-and-one attempt. James hit a jumper in the paint to tie the game, then Vescovi got called for his second foul, and the Cats hit both FT attempts on their next one-and-one opportunity.

By the under-eight media break, Tennessee recaptured a 18=17 lead thanks to a kind roll on a Ziegler jumper and a Tobe Awaka, back-to-the-basket baby hook. Tyreke Key airballed a 3 on Tennessee’s first possession after the timeout but got the ball back by being on the business end of a Kentucky push-off call.

Tennessee finally got into the bonus, too, at the 5:18 mark, but Olivier Nkamhoua missed the front end. The Vols got two points on the next possession off another UK foul, thanks to two Vescovi makes.

Vescovi hit his first 3 of the game with 4:36 left in the game on his patented, pump-fake, side-step 3 that gave the Vols a 23-21 lead, but UK got an Oscar Tshiebwe jumper and two easy layups that put it up 27-23 with 2.5-ish minutes left in the first half.

With UK up 29-23, Ziegler stole the ball and airballed a layup on the fastbreak, then Josiah-Jordan James fouled a Kentucky player on the rebound attempt. 31-23 Cats.

James hit Tennessee’s second 3 of the game to make it 31-26, but UK hit two FTs on its next possession. The half closed with Ziegler missing two layups on the Vols final two possessions, and Kentucky led the game at half 33-26.

The most jarring stat of the first half: the Vols got out-rebounded 22-10, including Kentucky snagging nine boards on the offensive glass.

The first half started nearly two minutes without a score, before Tshiebwe and Plavsic exchanged layups, and then UK’s Cason Wallace picked up his third foul with 17-ish minutes left.

In fact, Plavsic went on a 6-0 run from 17:44-16:07, which brought Tennessee back within three points, 35-32, and elicited a timeout from John Calipari. Coach Cal no doubt called the timeout from the somewhere near half court, as he spent more time on the court than he did on the sidelines though much of the game to this juncture.

By the 12:22 mark, Kentucky led 39-36, but Plavsic secured his first rebound of the game on the defensive boards on the subsequent offensive possession, Plavsic hit another baby hook in the paint to cut it to 39-38, Kentucky, going into the under-12 break.

Plavsic’s 14 points on 7-8 shooting led Tennessee in scoring at this point. Tshiebwe had 12 at the time of this writing, and if Plavsic outpaces Tshiebwe by game’s end, I’d give the Vols a pretty good shot at a win.

Tyreke Key hit a 3 with 10:15-ish left and tied the game at 41 off Ziegler’s seventh assist of the game.

Ziegler picked up his fourth foul with around nine minutes left, and UK hit a 3 to take the 44-43 lead on the subsequent possession.

Five-straight points from Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves put UK back up three, then Tennessee put Key in the post, where he made a bucket to bring the Vols back within one. Reeves missed a shot on UK’s next possession, but Phillips turned it over on a charge call to give Kentucky the ball back, up one, with 6:56 left in the game. That was Tennessee’s 18th foul of the game compared to 12 fouls called on Kentucky.

On the defensive end, Phillips picked up his second foul in 13 seconds — and his fourth overall — which put Kentucky back at the free-throw line for two points.

Two Key FTs — Tennessee’s sixth and seventh attempts of the game — tied the game at 48, but UK came down and went back up three off a Frederick deep ball.

Ziegler missed two layups in three possessions, though Vescovi hit an elbow jumper sandwiched between them, and the Cats held a three-point lead with four minutes left in the game.

Vescovi missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, and James picked up a foul on the rebound. UK made the first FT, missed the second one, and Tshiebwe grabbed the board for a layup to put Kentucky up six with fewer than four minutes remaining in the game.

Kentucky extended its lead to eight at the line, after Nkamhoua got called for a foul going after a James miss from deep.

On UK’s next possession, a Reeves elbow ended up as a flagrant foul, which led to two made FTs for Vescovi, but then James missed a layup when the Vols got the ball back that would have cut the lead to four.

UK’s Jacob Toppin missed a look, and Plavsic made looks at the hoop on back-to-back Tennessee possessions, the second of which came off a UK turnover. With one minute left, UK called a timeout up 58-56.

Tennessee’s defense induced a five-second call on Cason Wallace, but Ziegler missed a look near the rim and then Plavsic missed a layup after getting the ball off the offensive glass.

Two Tshiebwe made FTs sealed the win for UK. So much for the theory about Plavsic outscoring Tshiebwe, huh?


  • Uros Plavsic led the Vols with 19 points on 9-11 shooting.
  • The Vols got out-rebounded 43-23, and Josiah-Jordan James was the team’s leading board-getter with five
  • Tennessee doubled up Kentucky on points in the paint, 36-18, but Kentucky went 22-25 from the FT line while the Vols went 7-10
  • Zakai Ziegler had six points on 3-12 shooting and was the culprit on several of Tennessee’s missed layups. He led Tennessee with seven assists, but just two of those came in the second half
  • Freshman Julian Phillips was a non factor: two points on 1-2 shooting with three rebounds, four fouls and two turnovers in 18 minutes
  • Kentucky came into the game ranked 323rd in the NCAA in FT shooting percentage (65 percent) but hit 88 percent of its foul shots today
  • Tennessee’s defense held Kentucky to 35 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers, but the missed layups, FT discrepancy and the Vols hitting just 3-21 from deep helped UK to the win
  • The Vols turned the ball over just 11 times, with only two coming in the second half
  • UT converted just 10 of its 21 layup attempts and didn’t even attempt a dunk