By: Tyrus York – Before Saturday, Andrew Harrison had never had a 20 point game. But when the Vols came to town, he poured in 26 against a strong, defensively sound Tennessee Volunteer team to lead the #12/13 Wildcats to a 74-66 victory.
Tennessee came into Rupp Arena knowing that they had to keep Kentucky off the glass for a chance to win. They accomplished that goal, winning the rebounding battle 39-24, and by dominating the offensive glass 20-7.
But it was the guard play of the Harrison twins, especially Andrew who notched his career high that catapulted the Wildcats to victory. Aaron was very impressive as well, adding 14 points of his own.
Julius Randle entered beast mode in the first half after Kentucky got off to another slow start. The Vols took an early 6-0 lead before Randle answered with Kentucky’s first 5 points of the game. Randle would go on to finish the half with 16 points, and the game with 18 total.
To give you an idea of just how dominant Tennessee was in the paint, Randle collected only 2 rebounds for the entire game. The Vols also outscored Kentucky in the paint 38-26.
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- Kentucky’s slow start in the first half gave Tennessee as much as a 9 point lead at times, but the Cats fought back by matching the Vols’ physicality inside. Dakari Johnson was just the man for the job as he was able to slow down Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon in the paint.
Johnson would finish the game tied with Aaron Harrison for a team high 4 rebounds. He also contributed 4 points, but his effectiveness won’t show up in the box score. The telling stat for Johnson were his 16 minutes of action, nearly equaling Willie Cauley-Stein’s 19.
Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes turned in a great performance in this game, going for a double-double in the first half, eventually finishing with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Stokes along with Maymon were too much for the Cats in the paint for a majority of the game, but Kentucky found a way to win despite losing in every way down low.
After trailing most of the first half, a James Young 3 put Kentucky up by 2 just before halftime. Kentucky briefly lost that lead in the second half before stretching out to an 11 point lead to never look back. Struggling to get anything going in the paint, Kentucky was able to knock down crucial jumpers, including 7-16 from the 3 point line to get things rolling and get the “W”.
It would be a crime to not mention maybe the most surprising stat of the game, and that was Kentucky’s 23-24 from the foul line. The 95.8% clip is the best percentage the Cats have produced all season from the charity stripe. Be sure to listen to Coach Cal’s comments after the game to learn the secret of the dramatic turnaround.
For the first time since 1953 these two teams will only be meeting 1 time in the regular season, meaning there will be no rematch in Knoxville.
Kentucky will be back in action on Tuesday night at 9pm as they take on a surprising Texas A&M team in Rupp Arena.