If you would have told me before the game that Tennessee would bully the Kentucky Wildcats and own a 39-24 rebounding advantage, I would have told you that this was a sure loss for the Wildcats. Ditto on the 20-7 offensive rebounding edge for Tennessee. Welcome to opposites day at Rupp Arena as the Wildcats overcame sever season long deficiencies and held off the Tennessee Volunteers in a physical 74-66 win at Rupp Arena.
But at the beginning, it looked like the same old problems would plague the Wildcats. Tennessee scored the first six points of the game, prompting a timeout by John Calipari at the 17:22 mark. Julius Randle introduced opposites day as he drained his first three pointer of the season in eight attempts but the old problems surfaced. Kentucky suffered several defensive breakdowns early and the Vols, specifically Jarnell Stokes took advantage of it. Kentucky had turnovers on back to back plays and the Vols jumped to a 18-9 advantage.
Even the irony of Julius Randle rebounding a missed three pointer and slamming it home could stem the Vol’s Tide. Tennessee dominated the game in the paint and took a 24-16 lead and was doubling Kentucky up in rebounding at 14-7 and held a 16-6 advantage in the paint. Jarnell Stokes was primed for a big game with 10 early points and 6 boards. With Tennessee packing it in on every UK possession, Kentucky needed to find an answer.
It came in the form of the Harrison Twins. Andrew and Aaron both hit three pointers in an eight point all family run. Aaron’s trey made it 28-24 Tennessee. Julius Randle added a three-point play and a pair of free throws as Kentucky finally woke up defensively. James Young scored his first points of the game on a three pointer with :55 left in the half as Kentucky took their first lead of the game at 34-32. And that would be the halftime score as Kentucky led in a game they had no business being in.
For the half, Tennessee outrebounded UK 23-10 and held a 13-4 offensive board advantage. Kentucky off set that by going 5-12 from long-range and that is what kept UK in the game. So Kentucky found themselves in the same position Arkansas was on Tuesday. UK was being dominated in the rebounding stats but somehow led on the scoreboard. You can definitely thank Julius Randle’s 16 first half points and 10 by Andrew Harrison for keeping the Cats in the game.
Young started the second half with another three pointer, but Tennessee went on a 7-0 run to regain the lead at 39-7. Paramount to that was the 3-0 Tennessee rebounding edge and John Calipari had enough. Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein went to the bench and Dakari Johnson got a chance to show what he could do. . I have to say that I like the fact that Calipari is keeping his preseason promise to bench players that are not performing to their potential. That may cost Willie Cauley-Stein future minutes as Johnson paid immediate dividends.