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5 Observations From UT’s 84-77 Win Over Kentucky

Kentucky-1-2Tennessee (11-11, 4-5 SEC) shocked the nation on Tuesday night, knocking off No. 20 Kentucky (16-6, 6-3 SEC) in front of a season-high crowd 19,295 in Knoxville by a final score of 84-77.

Here are five takeaways from the big win for the Vols:

1. Vols reverse the formula: Tennessee had a drastic flipping of the script on Tuesday night after blowing big leads in the past two games. This time Tennessee got down – way down – trailing Kentucky by as many as 21 points. The Vols were the ones battling back this time. They got to within eight points in the first half and kept chipping away in the second before taking a lead and hanging on late for the huge win. “Obviously we’ve had the wrong formula…getting leads early and letting them get away,” head coach Rick Barnes said jokingly after the game. 

2. Strong finish: I said it in the preview: this isn’t your older brother’s Kentucky team of a couple years ago. But the Wildcats still had a size, talent and athleticism edge against the Vols, making Tennessee’s close to this game all the more impressive. The Vols outscored Kentucky by 28 minutes over the final 25 minutes to play. Credit Tennessee for not emotionally down after what was a tough week and a really poor start to the game. “I just thought our guys really deserve all the credit in the world – the way they hung in and hustled,” Barnes said. “They weren’t playing very well early, but they stayed with it.”

3. Attack, attack, attack: This was a key to the game for the Vols. They came up huge in this area. Kentucky had a few big swats, but that was ok for Tennessee because the Vols got in the lane, drew contact and got some easier buckets in the paint. And when they got to the free-throw lines, they converted – hitting 30-of-34 from the line (88%). After making it to the free-throw line just 18 times in the previous two games, there was a clear difference in the effort getting to the rim. Which also helped lead to…

4. Vols hit 42% from 3-point territory: Forty percent was the magic number for UT in my estimation. The Vols got there, and then some, in a much better shooting night on Tuesday after missing 15 straight against TCU on Saturday. Ball movement and overall aggression helped UT get better looks, which they capitalized on. Six players hit at least one 3-pointer with Kevin Punter leading the way with three makes from beyond the arc.

5. Senior moments: It’s almost a given that Kevin Punter is going to step up and have a big night in a game like this. He didn’t disappoint, scoring 27 points. But fellow senior Armani Moore, quietly, may have played the best game. While drawing the defensive assignment of potential future lottery pick Jamal Murray, Moore also had 18 points, 13 rebounds and a pair of steals. He even hit a huge second-half 3-pointer when the Kentucky defender backed off of him. “Armani, without question, played the best basketball he’s played since I’ve been at Tennessee,” Barnes said.

Final stats:

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