The Tennessee Volunteers proved on Saturday night in front of a national audience that they’re way more than just a one-man show.
Tennessee led wire to wire, knocking off the #10 Kentucky Wildcats 103-92 at Rupp Arena. The Vols had five players in double figures on the evening. Zakai Zeigler and Josiah-Jordan James each had a team-high 26 points, with the former adding a staggering 13 assists. Dalton Knecht had 16 points on 5-14 shooting. Jonas Aidoo had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Rob Dillingham led Kentucky with a game-high 35 points.
Tennessee jumped out to a quick 8-0 leading and extended it to 16-5 at the first media timeout. However, Kentucky managed to slowly chip away as the half hit its midpoint, with Dillingham knocking down five three pointers in the half. Kentucky managed to draw within 4 points at 46-42 at the halftime break.
In the second half, Kentucky appeared ready to move past Tennessee for its first lead, as a Reed Sheppard three pointer drew UK to its closest margin at 46-45 a minute in. However, Tennessee’s defense stood tall, holding Kentucky to just two points over the next four and a half minutes while building a 59-47 lead.
Kentucky trimmed the lead slightly to 63-53 when the teams got involved in a scuffle after the whistle. Tobe Awake pulled down a rebound and was fouled by Aaron Bradshaw. Awaka and Dillingham fought for the ball after the whistle and had quick words before Bradshaw shoved Awaka in the back, leading to players and officials rushing to get between them.
That series of events proved ruinous for Kentucky, as Tennessee turned things up to another gear for the game’s final 12-plus minutes. The Vols would work that lead up to a game-high 16 points at 76-60 with 9:22 left on a Santiago Vescovi three pointer and never look back.
Kentucky would get within 7 points three times with around 4 minutes to play, but the Vols answered each time to keep the Wildcats out of striking distance.
Up next: Tennessee hosts LSU on 2/7; Kentucky plays at Vanderbilt on 2/6.