The Hurry-Up: Playoff Preview and Early Super Bowl Predictions
LEXINGTON, Ky — Kentucky dismantled Tennessee from start-to-finish, torching the Vols’ highly touted defense in a 107-79 win.
Here’s three quick takeaways.
Porous Defensive Effort From Tennessee
Tennessee’s hung its hat on its elite defense all season. If the Vols were going to pull off the upset in Lexington it felt like the defense had to have a stifling afternoon.
That couldn’t have been farther from what happened Saturday as the Wildcats torched Tennessee for 107 points — the most any opponent has scored against the Vols all season by over 20 points.
It started with Kentucky’s backcourt who had their way with Tennessee’s perimeter defense. Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler ate Kennedy Chandler’s lunch on that end of the court as the freshman point guard couldn’t stay in front of the veteran guard.
For much of the first half the Wildcats shot an abundance of open looks at the basket as well as setting up elite shooters Davion Mintz and Kellen Grady for wide open threes — the duo combined to make six-of-10 triples.
In a 52-point first half, Kentucky shot a staggering 79% from the field and 63% from three-point range while the Vols grabbed just three offensive rebounds.
While Kentucky’s front court didn’t dominate the game with interior scoring, they were there to take care of anything that was left. That included dominating the glass on what proved to be rare misses for the Wildcats.
In the first half, Kentucky totaled as many offensive rebounds as Tennessee did defensive rebounds.
Chandler and Vescovi Lead Tennessee’s Offense
Oddly, Tennessee’s offense did plenty to give the Vols a chance on the road Saturday — particularly in the first half when the game was within reach.
That success was due to the strong offensive play of Santiago Vescovi and Kennedy Chandler.
Vescovi did what he has all season — been by far the Vols most effective and consistent offensive player.
The junior guard shot the ball well — four-of-six from three-point range — while getting inside the arc and creating offensive opportunities for himself and others.
The Uruguay native finished with a team high 20 points on seven-of-10 shooting while adding one assist and two turnovers.
Chandler played his best offensive game since the Vols’ win at Colorado in early December. The freshman’s slumping jump shot has found some rhythm the last few games and that continued in the ugly loss.
In fact, Tennessee’s 11-of-23 shooting from three-point range was its second highest percentage on the season.
The former five-star scored 17 points on seven-of-11 shooting.
While there aren’t many silver linings to draw from the embarrassing defeat, the backcourt duo showed what Tennessee’s offense can be when they play well.
Tennessee’s Front Court Is A Complete Non Factor
While it was Tennessee’s backcourt that led to the majority of the issues on the defensive end of the court, the Vols’ front court was pitiful Saturday.
Starters John Fulkerson and Olivier Nkamhoua were non factors at the best and complete liabilities at the worse.
Fulkerson didn’t score and grabbed zero rebounds in 20 minutes of action with 14 of them coming in the first half. The super senior was out of his depth against the Wildcats’ physical front court.
After scoring 27 points in an upset victory at Rupp Arena two years ago, Fulkerson didn’t score in his final two games at Kentucky.
Nkamhoua wasn’t much better, scoring four points and grabbing zero rebounds. While less of a liability, the junior provided zero answers to Tennessee’s post issues.
The kicker here is not only did neither give any offensive output, but they both struggled with turnovers, combining for six in the loss.
Brandon Huntley-Hatfield didn’t play until the final 10 minutes of the game, but performed nicely in the low leverage situation, scoring 11 points and grabbing three offensive rebounds.
However, the Vols leave Rupp Arena with no answers or consistency from their front court.