Tennessee takes down No. 20 Kentucky in dramatic fashion

Tennessee overcame a 21-point first half deficit to defeat the No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats, 84-77.

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Tennessee overcame a 21-point first half deficit to defeat the No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats, 84-77.

This year, Tennessee has been a team that has jumped out to big leads yet struggled to finish games. Tuesday night, the opposite happened as the Vols struggled early while Kentucky came out firing on all cylinders.

The Vols missed seven of their first eight shots and Armani Moore was the only player to score after five minutes into the action. At one time, Alex Poythress, Tyler Ulis and the entire Tennessee team each had six points. Tennessee was struggling to score the ball and to defend Kentucky on the break, resulting in an early double-digit deficit.

Then, the run happened. The Vols were down 34-13 late in the first half when they exploded. Tennessee embarked on a 23-8 run to finish off the first half, cutting what was once a 21-point lead to just six points.

What was interesting about the run is that it wasn’t ended by the halftime break. It continued through the second half.

Poythress and Isaiah Briscoe were both forced to the bench early in the second half because of foul trouble, leaving Ulis to work without two of his biggest threats. He was able to keep the game close until inside the five minute mark, when Tennessee really took momentum and rode it out to the finish.

Detrick Mostella made a reverse layup on one end and that was followed up by a Kevin Punter steal and three pointer, giving the Vols a seven point lead, their largest of the game and just enough to finish off the Wildcats.

“I just though our guys really deserve all the credit in the world, the way they hung in and hustled,” said coach Rick Barnes. “They weren’t playing very well early, but they stayed with it. They really did.”

Tennessee had four scorers who were in double digits including Punter, who was the lead scorer with 27 points on 7-of-19 shooting. He also went 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Armani Moore had a big time game with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting and hauled in 13 rebounds.

Tennessee outscored Kentucky by 13 and shot 48 percent from the field in the second half after a miserable 33 percent in the first half. Tennessee also won the rebound battle 37-to-36, even though it was easily out-sized.

Kentucky had four players in double digits. Ulis had 20 points and Jamal Murray chipped in with 23 points. The depth was exposed tonight, as UK’s reserves totaled for only four points.

The Vols are back in action on Saturday when they travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.

Featured image by Ben Ozburn

Edited by Cody McClure