Tennessee (11-9, 4-4 SEC) shook up the college basketball landscape with a huge 82-80 upset over No. 4 Kentucky (17-3, 7-1 SEC) on Tuesday night in front of over 19,000 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena – the largest crowd of the year for the Vols.
Here are three quick takeaways from the victory:
1. Vols get to the bucket, hit their 3s as well
Tennessee did a little bit of everything offensively in its upset win over Kentucky on Tuesday night.
Sometimes it was hard drives to the bucket and acrobatic finishes. Other times it was kicking it outside to the shooters, who were an efficient 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. The Vols, which focused on getting inside more than anything, finished 47% from the floor on the evening and outscored long and athletic UK team 42-28 in the paint.
“They haven’t been making 3s, but I said before the game, they will make them against us – everybody does,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after the game. “I thought they did a great job of driving the ball. They made some tough, tough baskets.”
2. Late first-half surge sets the table
Tennessee put together a very solid first 20 minutes on Tuesday evening, going back and forth with the Wildcats for most of the first half before pulling away for a decent 39-34 advantage at the break.
While Tennessee led at multiple times in the first half, it was a sequence in the final two minutes that really got the crowd into it and gave the Vols some early breathing room as well as some confidence.
Lamonte Turner hit a big 3-pointer at the 1:27 mark of the first half, getting the crowd fired up. The place almost exploded a few seconds later when Robert Hubbs got to the baseline, beat the Kentucky defense and slammed home a one-hand dunk to give the Vols a 39-32 lead at that point. Tennessee had to hold off the Cats in the second half as they mounted multiple rallies, but that run late in the first certainly set the stage for the final 20 minutes.
3. Tennessee finally breaks through
The Vols have shown that they can play with anybody this year. Winning the big ones has been the issue. UT has taken North Carolina, Gonzaga, Oregon and others down to the final minutes, but haven’t been able to win the big one.
That changed on Tuesday, as Tennessee weathered a fierce storm against Kentucky to hold on for the victory.
“We’ve been in a lot of good ones and couldn’t break through,” Barnes said. “I just hope it’s something we can continue to build on … I’d like to think our guys are growing up. They’ve played 20 games against one of the toughest schedules in the nation.”
Final stats for Tennessee-Kentucky pic.twitter.com/xcjydTefIR
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) January 25, 2017