Photo by Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Kentucky Basketball

Kentucky Tops Tennessee 77-64 in Thompson-Boling Arena

February 8, 2020

For the first time in five years, Kentucky has played the Volunteers in Knoxville and come out on top. The Cats took a 5-4 lead 17:33 mark and never looked back. While they were never able to stretch the lead to more than 13, they led for all but 21 seconds of the game and maintained at least a two-possession lead the entire second half. 

A sloppy first half that saw 25 total fouls called and 10 Kentucky turnovers, yet they still led 37-30 going into the locker room at the half. Despite those ten turnovers, Kentucky outscored Tennessee in points off turnovers 7-6 in the first half. Johnny Juzang, one of the major bright spots in the game, was a perfect 4-4 from the field and scored 8 of his 13 points in the first half. Juzang hit two threes from the right side of the court and got to three free throw line as well, knocking down two freebies. 

While it wasn't always pretty, Kentucky's defense showed up in the first half, producing four steals and holding Tennessee to 32% from the field. Tennessee came into the game shooting 30.6% from three, and Kentucky held them to 2-11 (18.2%) in the first half while also outrebounding the Vols 18-13. The Vols scored just 18 points from field goals in the first half, staying in the game after going 12-16 from the free-throw line. 

Juzang continued his stellar play, hitting another three to start the second half and threading a beautiful pass to Nick Richards for a dunk that extended the Kentucky lead to ten. After Tennessee took 16 free throws in the first half, Kentucky flipped the script and went 16-18 from the line in the second half, effectively closing out the game despite Tennessee's consistent pressure. 

Immanuel Quickley scored just 3 points in the first half but erupted in the second half, scoring 15 of his 18 total points in the final twenty minutes. He was one of five Kentucky players in double figures this afternoon and was the closer down the stretch, scoring eight of those points between the 6:00 and 1:30 marks.

While it wasn't an especially dominant night for Nick Richards, he still quietly racked up 15 points and seven rebounds. He went 5-5 from the field and hit five of his six free throws to provide an anchor in the middle for the Cats, which he has done all year. 

As we move into February, we have now seen progress from three of four role players for Kentucky. Juzang had a breakout game today, scoring double-digits for the first time in his UK career. Brooks and Montgomery have upped their energy and have shown flashes of the players they can be. Brooks led the team with nine rebounds today, including three offensive boards, while Montgomery had all three of the team's blocks and added two assists. Despite leaning on the core four to bring the game home, my biggest takeaway was the play of Kentucky's role players.

All in all, this was an important win for Kentucky. They move to 8-2 in the conference and are now tied for first in the SEC after Auburn got an OT to win against LSU at home. Kentucky flashed a balanced offense and suffocating defense on the way to their eighteenth win of the season. They will look to go 2-0 in the Volunteer State on Tuesday as they take on Vandy in Nashville.

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Kentucky Tops Tennessee 77-64 in Thompson-Boling Arena

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