Five things you need to know from Kentucky’s 107-79 crushing of Tennessee

Alex Slitz/aslitz@herald-leader.com
·4 min read

Five things you need to know from the No. 18 Kentucky Wildcats’ 107-79 win over the No. 22 Tennessee Volunteers in SEC men’s basketball at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center:

1. Cats scald the nets. Kentucky lit up Rupp Arena with scintillating shot making.

The Wildcats hit their first five shots. They went deep into the second half before cooling off.

UK made 13 of its first 17 field-goal attempts.

Kentucky ended the first half having made 22 of 28.

At the second television timeout of half number two, Kentucky stood 32 of 41 from the floor — a cool 78-percent field-goal percentage — and was running ahead of school-record pace.

Alas, Kentucky finally cooled off a bit, and finished the game having made 38 of 56 shots for 67.9 percent.

The all-time Kentucky mark for field-goal percentage in a game remains 76.5, set when the 1981-82 Cats made 13 of 17 shots in a “stall-ball,” 34-28 overtime win over Notre Dame at Freedom Hall.

2. UK guards shine. If guard play wins in March — and it does — then Saturday supplied ample reason to believe Kentucky can make a run in the postseason.

The Wildcats’ guards were sensational.

Back from injury, point guard Sahvir Wheeler sliced and diced the Vols for 21 points and eight assists. The Georgia transfer hit eight of 10 shots and one of two trey attempts and all four of his free throws.

Continuing his ascendant play of late, freshman TyTy Washington went for a career-high 28 points with five assists. The Phoenix product made 10 of 13 shots, two of four three-point tries and all six of his foul shots.

Outside marksman Kellan Grady was dialed in and had 16 points. The graduate transfer from Davidson hit five of eight field goals, four of seven treys and both his free throws.

Super-senior sixth man Davion Mintz chipped in 10 points. The grad transfer from Creighton hit four of five shots and two of three treys.

3. Cats pull “rank.” The victory over the No. 22 Vols was Kentucky’s first this season in three games over ranked foes.

UK lost to then-No. 9 Duke 79-71 in the season opener and dropped its SEC road opener at then-No. 21 LSU 65-60.

In its last nine games vs. teams ranked in the AP Top 25, Kentucky is 2-7 — and both of the wins are over Tennessee.

The Cats beat then-No. 19 UT 70-55 last Feb. 20 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Kentucky’s victory also snapped Tennessee’s two-game win streak in Rupp Arena.

4. Rupp feels “normal” at last. Saturday’s crowd was the largest, the loudest and felt like the most “regular” Kentucky home basketball experience since the pandemic started.

There were some empty seats — but nothing close to what we’ve seen through most of the 2021-22 home season.

The crowd was energetic and into the game from the tip.

You have to go back to the final game of the 2019-20 season — also against Tennessee in Kentucky’s final home game before the coronavirus pandemic so altered day-to-day life —to find a UK home crowd like Saturday’s.

5. Honoring Joe B. Before tipoff, the Rupp Arena video boards carried a tribute to former UK Coach Joe B. Hall.

That was followed by a moment of silence.

Hall, who led the Wildcats’ program from 1972-85 and won one NCAA title (1978) and reached three Final Fours (1975, 1978 and 1984), died Saturday morning.

He was 93.

There likely is nothing the current UK team could have done to honor Hall that would have meant more to him than crushing Tennessee.

In his UK head coaching days, the Rocky Toppers tormented Joe B.

Hall went 11-16 vs. UT and was a dreadful 1-12 vs. the Volunteers in the Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville. Stokely was also the venue where UK lost to Louisville in the massively hyped “Dream Game” in the 1983 NCAA Tournament round of eight.

When UT announced in 2012 it was going to demolish Stokely, Hall had a suggestion.

He said the demolition crew should hire him to push the button.

There was no person on Earth, Hall said, who had more incentive to see the Stokely Athletics Center blown to smithereens than him.

So looking in on Saturday’s UK rout of UT from the afterlife, Hall must have enjoyed the proceedings immensely.

Box score from Kentucky basketball’s 107-79 win over Tennessee

First Scouting Report: Can Kentucky survive a ‘trap game’ at Texas A&M?

Yes, Joe B. Hall was keeper of the flame, but he deserves credit for much more

‘I was dreading this day.’ Joe B. Hall remembered by his Kentucky Wildcats family.

‘The defender of the program.’ Former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall dies at 93.

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