Tennessee stunned Kentucky on the basketball court Tuesday night, as Rick Barnes’ Volunteers beat John Calipari’s Wildcats in Knoxville by a score of 82 to 80. The number 4 ranked Wildcats came into the matchup with an undefeated SEC record, and they were winners of seven-straight games. With Tennessee’s win, 3 of the top 5 teams in the country lost on Tuesday.
Robert Hubbs III led the Volunteers with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Hubbs commented after the game that, “We just wanted to go out and make a statement, I think we did that tonight.” The Vols’ Grant Williams also played well as he contributed 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. On defense he added 3 steals and 4 blocks. Williams also hit a crucial 2-pointer with 14.2 seconds remaining in the game, which put Tennessee up 80 to 75. Tennessee guard Lamonte Turner tallied 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in the win. Turner also hit two game-sealing free throws with 5.4 seconds left, that gave Tennessee an 82 to 77 advantage. Admiral Schofield had an amazing game coming off the bench for Tennessee. Schofield had 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 assist. Vols forward Lew Evans gave the Tennessee team a spark with his aggressive play, while he put up 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Overall the game came down to crucial turnovers when it mattered the most. Kentucky turned the ball over 14 times, and Tennessee turned the ball over only 9 times. Tennessee also held an advantage in three-point shooting. The Vols made 50% of their 3-point shots, while Kentucky only made 25% of their 3-pointers.
Tennessee played well the whole game with their home-court advantage. While Kentucky came within 2 points during the second half, they were never able to grab a second-half lead from the Vols. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said after the game, “I’d like to think that the schedule we’ve played this year really helped us break though and get a win against an outstanding team, one of the top teams in the country.” Barnes added, “I thought our poise was great from the beginning. I thought we stayed locked in with what we are trying to get done throughout the game. I’m just really proud and happy for these guys. Like you guys know, we’ve been in a lot of good ones with teams that we just couldn’t break through, and for them to get this done tonight, I just appreciate them. I appreciate our fans. I thought they were outstanding. It’s something we can continue to build on.”
With the win Tennessee improved their record to 11-9 and 4-4 in the SEC. For Kentucky, they fell to 17-3 overall and 7-1 in the SEC. For Tennessee coach Rick Barnes he improved to 2-0 against Kentucky at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, and 4-3 in his coaching career against Kentucky coach John Calipari. Calipari now holds a 3-4 career record against Tennessee, when the game is played in Knoxville. And the Vols have also won 3 out of the last 4 in Knoxville against Kentucky. Tennessee now has 69 wins against Kentucky in men’s basketball, the most of any school.
After a big win against a top rival, the question is now, can Tennessee make the NCAA Tournament? If you compare Tennessee to last year’s Vanderbilt team the answer would be yes. Vanderbilt made the tournament with a 19-13 record, one of the last four in. This time last year Vanderbilt had an 11-8 record, with strength of schedule ranking of 23rd. They also had 0 top-50 RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) wins and 1 sub-100 RPI loss. Now look at Tennessee this year. They have an overall record of 11-9, and their strength of schedule is 5th in the country. The Vols also currently have 1 top-50 RPI win and 0 sub-100 RPI losses. According to those stats, Tennessee is on the right track to make the Tourney.
Next, Kentucky will travel to Kansas on Saturday, and Tennessee will host Kansas State in Knoxville, also on Saturday.