Julius Randle scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half as Kentucky beat Tennessee, 74-66, Saturday.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – You don't have to dig a millimeter into the box score of Kentucky's 74-66 victory over Tennessee in Rupp Arena Saturday to find major flashing lights, indicators that the Wildcats could have lost this basketball game.
Tennessee outrebounded Kentucky by 15, only the second time this season the Wildcats have been beaten on the glass. The Vols outscored the Wildcats in the paint by a dozen. They had more second-chance points.
But in the end Kentucky had time to exhale and enjoy the Wildcats' 13th victory and third in four Southeastern Conference games.
Because Kentucky shot the ball like Tony Delk and Kyle Macy were in the house. The Wildcats made seven of 16 three-point shots and an amazing 23 of 24 free throws.
Andrew Harrison stepped forward as the star of the game, scoring a career-high 26 while making all 10 of his free throws. The Wildcats also did solid work defending the three-pointer, forcing the Vols to miss 11 of 13.
TAKE ‘EM, THEY'RE FREE – Until Saturday Kentucky's best free-throw shooting performance came against Cleveland State. The Wildcats made 27 of 35, a percentage of 77.1 percentage. Kentucky had failed to make better than 65 percent of its free throws in its last four games. UK ranked 11th in the SEC in free throw percentage at 63.3 percent.
On Saturday the Wildcats went to the line like Macy. Swish, swish, swish. Swish, swish, swish. Kentucky made 17 straight to start the game and finished 23-for-24. Aaron Harrison had the only miss with 32.5 seconds to play.
REBOUNDING 101 – The official Southeastern Conference statistics confirm that Kentucky is first in the league in rebounding margin. The Wildcats are plus 13 over the entire season and entered Saturday's game at plus-15.7 in SEC play. That's impressive.
But it does not mean the Wildcats have it figured out on the glass. They don't. A failure to block out cost the Wildcats a chance to win at Arkansas Tuesday night. And Tennessee pounded Kentucky on the glass Saturday, grabbing 20 offensive rebounds, only four fewer than the Wildcats grabbed on both ends of the floor.
WHERE'S WILLIE? – Willie Cauley-Stein was mostly a no-show Tuesday night in Fayetteville. Two points. Six rebounds. Just one blocked shot in 18 minutes.
Cauley-Stein was not much more effective Saturday against the Volunteers. He failed to score and added only three rebounds while missing all five of his field-goal attempts. It's the third time in five games that Cauley-Stein has failed to score in double figures.
Is it time to bump Cauley-Stein from the starting lineup and replace him with either Alex Poythress or Dakari Johnson?
NO CALL NO PROBLEM – Kentucky fans were unhappy with the officials late in the first half, even though they got one right.
Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon had both of his beefy hands wrapped around a rebound when he moved into a double team. Maymon flexed both of his elbows to clear the way to pass the ball. Down went UK guard Andrew Harrison.
Flagrant foul? Kentucky basketball?
Not so fast.
The officials went to the replay monitor and saw what the TV audience saw, but folks in Rupp Arena missed the explanation because a replay was never aired.
Maymon's elbow hit nothing but air. Harrison went down without contact.
No foul was called. Tennessee basketball, even though John Calipari tried to argue the point.
No problem. The decision stirred what had been a disengaged crowd – and Kentucky outscored Tennessee 10-4 over the rest of the half to take a 34-32 halftime lead, even though the Vols grabbed a dozen more rebounds than the home team in the first half.
UP NEXT – Kentucky needs to continue to try to get well at home – and the Wildcats have back-to-back opportunities to do it. Surprising Texas A&M visits Rupp
Arena Tuesday night. The Aggies have won their first three SEC games, including a trip to Tennessee. Georgia comes to Lexington Saturday, and the Bulldogs have also been better than expected, winning two of their first three, including a trip to Missouri.