Kentucky basketball: Wildcats silence Rocky Top in dominating performance

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Kentucky Wildcats
Tennessee Volunteers

Anytime you can win a border war against your most hated enemy it’s a great day. It’s even better when it’s in dominating fashion as Kentucky basketball did over rival Tennessee 70-55.

So take that Tennessee !!

Earlier in the year, it was loss after loss in a historical manner but on Saturday it was nice to be on the other side in a winning style and even better when you don’t have to listen to Good Ol’ Rocky Top over and over and over.

Kentucky basketball finally knocks off ranked opponent

The win marked the first victory over a ranked team this year after five attempts.

During the coach John Calipari era today’s 15-point winning margin against a ranked team on the road is the largest since they toppled rival and No. 22 Louisville 78-63 on December 31, 2010, and No. 16 Florida 74-59 on March 4, 2012.

Calipari was asked after the game about holding onto a big lead that was built early in the game.

“I keep talking daggers. Olivier (Sarr) made two free throws and a jump hook, those are daggers. The 3 by Devin (Askew), the rebound by Devin in traffic, those are daggers. The biggest thing is that we’re a good defensive team and we learned a little bit from the last time playing them how you have to play them. We knew coming in that it was going to be hand to hand combat and we didn’t back away. They’re a top-20 team, probably a top-15 team, they have a chance to go to a Final Four and we came in here and did it. It’s one game and now we keep building.

Kentucky is now 157-75 overall against the Vols.

Keion Brooks Jr. managed a double-double for the Wildcats with 10 points and 14 rebounds and that was the difference on the boards as Kentucky claimed a 43-31 advantage.

The opening 20 minutes were pure domination and the most fun we have seen watching this team all year. The second half not so good but more on that later.

Davion Mintz was on fire hitting all five of his shots that he launched and in each case happened to be  3-pointers.

Isaiah Jackson had another highlight half as the freshman continues to see his NBA lottery status rising with 13 points including a perfect 5 for 5 from the foul line. His thunderous baseline driving reverse slam sent BBN into a frenzy.

Tennessee took an early 10-8 lead but it was ALL Wildcats after that eventually building a lead as large as 45-28 just before the end of the half.

Kentucky raced by the Vols with a 15-0 run for a 23-10 lead as Mintz knocked down 3-3 from 3 over a 5-minute stretch.

The Wildcats (8-13, 7-7) were running, looking for open shots, and sharing the ball without turning it over which makes this team much more formidable when it does all of these without missing a piece. In the end, they were in the plus with 12 assists to 11 miscues.

Then the second half began.

It was another shaky start again for the third straight game with Kentucky missing its first seven shots but the lead somehow grew as the incredible foul shooting run continued.

Kentucky at the 11:58 mark had hit just 3 of 15 shots in the second half but managed to push the lead to its largest of the game at 58-38. The woeful shooting percentage continued its downward plunge.

By the time the clock hit 6:53 remaining somehow Kentucky held a 61-46 lead despite some bone-chilling 3-21 shooting in the half. Tennessee was just as frigid hitting 5 of 18.

Mintz felt both the first-half shooting and the second-half defensive effort were equally impressive.

“I think both. At one point in the game, I told my teammates my gun is jammed. We have to do something. But, just for us to keep that lead, that’s huge. It showed the past three, four games, for us to continue to fight throughout the last six, five, four minutes, that’s a huge improvement. I think Keion (Brooks Jr.) mentioned earlier about the fact that we’re all new guys playing with each other, trying to find that glue. Of course, it came late for us, but that’s a huge accomplishment for this team, it’s kind of what coach has been pushing.”

Devin Askew canned a 3-pointer with 4:10 to play to end a drought of 8:04 but Kentucky incredibly still maintained a 20 point advantage. It was the Wildcat’s first long-range make of the second half.

Tennessee scored 93 points last Wednesday against South Carolina and put 89 on Georgia two games prior. The Wildcat defense was stunning holding the Vols to their third-lowest point game of the year.

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