Knoxville, TN – Coupling an offensive explosion with strong defense and an impactful capacity crowd on hand, No. 16 Tennessee defeated No. 4 Kentucky, 76-63, Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee (19-6, 10-3 SEC) earned its fifth win over a top-five team in the Rick Barnes era and first since it defeated No. 4 Kentucky at the 2019 SEC Tournament.
Tennessee’s offense was firing on all cylinders, with four players scoring in double figures, igniting the crowd of 21,678 with regularity. All-SEC candidate Santiago Vescovi led all scorers with 18 points, Kennedy Chandler notched 17, while John Fulkerson and SEC Sixth Man of the Year candidate Zakai Zeigler each recorded 14.
Tennessee held Kentucky to 23-of-67 (.343) shooting from the field, the Wildcats’ lowest field-goal percentage in a game this season. Before tonight, their low was 36.2 percent against both Texas A&M and LSU. The Vols blocked eight UK shots, the most any team has blocked the Wildcats in a game this season. In Tennessee’s last five games, the Vols are averaging 9.6 blocks per game.
True freshman forward Jonas Aidoo had a huge game in the post, playing an increased role after a recent injury to junior Olivier Nkamhoua. Aidoo pulled down seven rebounds, swatted three shots, and scored five points—all career-highs.
With the win, Tennessee has won its last five games, the longest active win streak in the SEC. The Vols broke Kentucky’s six-game win stretch and have now climbed into a tie for second in the SEC standings.
Kentucky (21-5, 10-3 SEC) was led by Oscar Tshiebwe, who had 13 points and 15 rebounds, his eighth double-double in a row and 20th this season.
It was a heavyweight battle through the first eight minutes of play, with three technical fouls called and both teams sinking well-contested buckets. Chandler stepped on the gas to give Tennessee a lead it would not relinquish, sinking a 3-pointer from the left wing with 12:18 left in the half. After a Kentucky possession came up empty, Chandler ran back down the floor, spotting up from the right wing, and drained another trey. The Naismith Defensive Player of the Year candidate started 4-of-4 overall and 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.
The Vols later went on a 17-1 run lasting 4:54, during which the standout freshman guard tallied 10 points. He finished the half with 15, while Vescovi went 5-of-7 from the field, sinking a pair of 3-pointers. The Vols shot an impressive 17-of-31 (.548) from the floor and 6-of-11 (.545) from beyond the arc, while draining all six free throws, to take a 46-32 lead into halftime.
Kentucky came out fighting to start the second half, but after the second media timeout, Tennessee took over the game once again, erupting for a 15-2 run lasting 5:44 in the back half of the period. Zeigler hit a pair of catch-and-shoot 3-pointers in that span, including a big bucket with 5:36 left to play to put the Big Orange up by 20, 68-48. The Volunteers never looked back, shooting 10-of-12 from the free-throw line in the final five minutes and closing out the victory.
Down The Top-Five ‘Cats
With Tuesday’s win over No. 4 Kentucky, Tennessee has defeated five AP top-five foes during the Rick Barnes era—four of those victories came against the Wildcats.
Throughout the full history of the Tennessee-Kentucky series, the Vols have beaten a top-five Kentucky squad 13 times.
Scoring On The Break
Tennessee had 14 fast-break points in the first half alone during the win over Kentucky. Entering Tuesday, in 11 of the Vols’ 12 SEC games this season, Tennessee did not reach 14 fast-break points for the entirety of the game.
Fulkerson Notches Another Over Cats
With Tuesday’s win, super senior John Fulkerson has now appeared in seven wins over Kentucky during his career.
Protecting Home Court
With Tuesday’s triumph, Tennessee improved to 14-0 at home this season. Dating to last season, the Vols have won 15 straight inside Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols have two more games remaining at home this season—Feb. 26 vs. Auburn (sold out) and March 5 vs. Arkansas (AllVols.com).
Next Up For UT Vols Basketball
The Tennessee men’s basketball team prepares for a two-game road swing during which it faces No. 23 Arkansas on Saturday, February 19th, at 3:00pm CT on ESPN and Missouri on Tuesday, February 22nd, at 6:00pm CT on SEC Network.
The UT Vols return to Rocky Top for a showdown with current No. 2 Auburn at 3:00pm CT on Saturday, February 26th. Tickets to the Auburn game are sold out.
Kentucky 63, Tennessee 76