Wallace, Tshiebwe lead Kentucky to big win over Tennessee
Brian Hartman • 2/18/2023 in Basketball
The Wildcats added significantly to their growing NCAA tournament résumé.
Cason Wallace, Uros Plavsic and Zakai Zeigler photo courtesy of Andrew Ferguson of Tennessee athletics.
Kentucky's NCAA Tournament résumé. got a big boost with a win over 10th-ranked Tennessee in Rupp Arena, 66-54, on Saturday afternoon in Lexington, Ky.
Oscar Tshiebwe and Cason Wallace scored 16 points apiece to lead the way for the Cats. Tshiebwe was 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Wallace led his team in assists with six while shooting 6-1of-4 from the floor.
Kentucky (18-9, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) swept the season series from the Vols for the first time since 2012. The Vols dropped to 20-7, 9-5 in the SEC.
Chris Livingston notched a double double with 12 points (4-of-5 from the floor) and 10 rebounds. Jacob Toppin finished with 11 points and Antonio Reeves put up eight.
"We have a bunch of guys playing for each other and doing what the team needs to win," Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
Tennessee was doomed by its lowest scoring first half of the season. Kentucky led 39-19 at halftime. Jonas Aidoo's layup finally got the Vols to 10 points with only 8:11 left in the half.
"It goes back to consistency and knowing what we are going to get night in and night out. I don't think our shot selection was good in the first half and that impacted our defense. We weren't locked in enough," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.
Santiago Vescovi led Tennessee in scoring with 17 points. After a scoreless first half, Vescovi scored 15 points in the first eight minutes of the second half to cut Kentucky's lead to 51-41. He made three 3-pointers while driving to the bucket for three layups during that stretch. Vescovi finished 7-of-13 from the floor after going 0-for-3 in the first half.
The Vols wasted a career high 16 points from sophomore Jahmai Mashack, who was 7-12 from the floor, but only 1-5 from the free throw line.
The Vols shot 5-of-14 from the charity stripe for the game. They missed all six attempts in the second half. Kentucky shot 23-of-35 for the game (65.7%)
Kentucky punctuated a 7-0 run in the first half with a dunk by Tshiebwe. His ensuing free throw to complete the 3-point play put the Cats up 22-10 with 6:10 to play before halftime.
Cason Wallace's dunk capped off a 9-3 Kentucky run that gave them a 31-15 lead at the 3 minute mark. The Cats closed out the first half with 6 straight points from the free throw line, giving them a 20 point lead at the break.
The Vols showed some fight coming out of halftime. Kentucky had turnovers on their first three second half possessions.
Tennessee took advantage by scoring off each turnover. Vescovi's 3 capped Tennessee's 7-0 run, cutting their deficit to 39-26.
Mashack's 3 pointer with 8:39 left cut the Vols' deficit to single digits for the first time in the second half (55-46). Mashack's layup with 7:25 cut Kentucky's lead to eight. That was as close as the Vols could get.
Tennessee went nearly four minutes without scoring. Reeves's jumper with 4:37 left gave Kentucky a 62-50 lead.
Toppin's dunk with 10:05 left put Kentucky up 55-41. Those two points gave the 'Cats all the points they would need.
Tennessee tied its worst scoring output this season in a loss. The Vols scored 54 in a loss at Florida on Feb 1.
Tennessee's lowest-scoring game of the season was a 46-43 win over Auburn on Feb 4.
Kentucky's 20-point lead at halftime was its biggest in an SEC game all year by far. The Wildcats led Florida by 11 at halftime on Feb 4.
Kentucky held Tennessee to exactly 100 combined points in its two wins over the Vols this season. The Vols have averaged 70 ppg against all their other opponents.
Tennessee finished with 14 more shots than Kentucky, but the Cats shot 44.4% (20-45). Tennessee made two more FGs but only shot 37.3% for the game (22-of-59).
Kentucky outrebounded Tennessee 40-32. Kentucky finished with 12 turnovers while the Vols only committed eight.
Kentucky honored its 1996 and 1998 national championship teams before tip off. Their 2023 team payed a nice tribute to their predecessors with a balanced scoring effort, placing four players in double figures.
The Vols lost 2 games to Kentucky in the same season for the first time under Barnes.
CBS unveiled the projected top 16 seeds for the upcoming NCAA Tournament based on all games played before today. The Vols were the No. 9 overall ranked team and the top-ranked 3 seed. Alabama was the top overall seed despite losing to Tennessee on Wednesday. The official NCAA tournament bracket will be revealed on March 12th.
Up next: Tennessee plays at Texas A&M on Tuesday at 7 Eastern. Kentucky plays Florida in Gainesville on Wednesday at 7 Eastern. ESPN will televise both games.