The Tennessee Volunteers (17-13, 9-8 SEC) traveled to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats (24-6, 14-3 SEC) for their final regular season road game. Tennessee lost 77-64 to the Wildcats in Knoxville earlier this season.
Kentucky opened up as an 8.5-point favorite over the Volunteers, according to oddsshark.com. However, this did not stop the Volunteers from overcoming a 17-point second-half deficit and upsetting the Wildcats at home.
The Wildcats started on a 4-0 scoring run. However, the Volunteers were able to battle back to take a 9-7 lead. The Wildcats responded with a bucket of their own, tying the game up 9-9 with 14:25 remaining in the first half. Redshirt junior John Fulkerson started off the game hot, scoring seven of Tennessee’s first nine points.
Kentucky’s offense went on a 17-2 run, taking a 24-11 lead with 10:11 remaining in the half. Redshirt junior Jalen Johnson hit back-to-back 3-pointers, which Yves Pons followed up with a layup to stop the Kentucky run. Kentucky battled back and increased their lead to 34-22 with 5:32 remaining in the first half. The Vols entered half-time trailing 42-31.
Kentucky started off the second half on a 6-0 run, increasing their lead to 17. John Fulkerson was able to stop the Wildcat run with an and-one play, narrowing the Kentucky lead to 48-34 with 17:34 remaining.
Tennessee’s offense gained momentum by going on a run of their own, scoring nine unanswered points. The Volunteers continued to gain momentum and eventually cut the Kentucky lead to two with 7:28 remaining in the game. After a Kentucky miss, freshman Josiah Jordan-James hit a transition 3-pointer to give the Vols a 61-60 lead.
Tennessee held a 68-66 lead with a little under three minutes remaining in the game. Assisted by Santiago Vescovi, Yves Pons hit a mid-range jumper to increase the Vols’ lead to four. After the two teams traded baskets, the Volunteers still lead 74-70 with 54.4 seconds remaining.
“I kept telling the guys, if you’ll just take care of the ball, we can do this,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said on what he told his team towards the end of the game.
The Volunteers went on to defeat the Wildcats 81-73 in Rupp Arena. This marks the sixth win in Rupp Arena for the Vol program since it opened for the 1976-1977 season, according to ESPN.
“One of the best I’ve seen from anyone I’ve ever coached,” Coach Rick Barnes said on John Fulkerson’s performance against the Wildcats. Fulkerson led the Vols with a career high 27 points on 10-0f-15 shooting.
The Volunteers will now have under four days to turn their attention to the No. 17 Auburn Tigers for their final home game of the year. Tip off on March 7 is scheduled for noon at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Edited by Christian Knox and Ryan Sylvia
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics