CRAWFORD | Three quick takeaways on UK's win at UT -- to go to 2 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Three quick takeaways on UK's win at UT -- to go to 26-0

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn (WDRB) — They don't all have to be pretty. The No. 1-ranked and unbeaten University of Kentucky basketball team took more threes than it generally takes and scored less in the paint than it usually does, but dogged defense and some good offensive execution midway through the second half led the Wildcats to a 66-48 win in Thompson Boling Arena.

The win gives the Wildcats the best start in the history of the storied program, 26-0. While it's rare air for the Wildcats, Calipari has been here before.

He watched his team, which traveled to Knoxville a day early and showed some rust from sitting around for a full day, catch fire in the second half and, more importantly, dig down when it wasn't playing well offensively to win the game with other weapons.

Karl-Anthony Towns, who has been the team's top threat over the past several weeks, picked up two fouls in the game's first minute, but the Wildcats pressed forward.

Three quick takeaways from the historic win:

1. BOOK IT, BOOKER SHOULD BE SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR. He keeps winning Freshman of the Week honors, but can we knock it off? Not only has Booker been UK's best player over the course of the season, but in Southeastern Conference play, he has been the most valuable player on the most valuable team in the nation.

Booker wasn't feeling it from the field Tuesday night. He missed six of his first seven shots. Yet he still carried the Wildcats through a four-minute first-half stretch when no other player scored, with four points from the free-throw line and two more on a put-back.

He took four of UK's final five shots in the first half, made a pair of them, and led the team in rebounding at the half. For the game, Booker finished with 18 points and a career-high seven rebounds, four on the offensive end.

2. NO POST ON TUESDAY. It was a rare game in which UK got relatively little from its post players — apart from Willie Cauley-Stein — until Karl-Anthony Towns muscled in to rebound a missed free-throw and put it back while being fouled, earning UK a four-point trip and a 56-44 lead with just under seven minutes play.

Tennessee had outscored UK 30-14 in the paint until that point, and 17-10 on second-chance points. But the Vols couldn't sustain it. UK took command of its offensive boards after that, with Lyles scoring on a put-back to put the Wildcats up 14. Tennessee wound up with a 34-22 edge in the category.

3. DEFENSE DID THE JOB. At one point, UK was shooting 21 percent in the second half, but still had extended its lead, thanks go dogged defense and solid work from the free-throw line.

For the game, the Wildcats made 17 of 21 compared with 4 of 10 for Tennessee.

And the Volunteers finally withered with about six minutes to play, settling for jump shots and throwing the ball away against the Wildcats' relentless attack.

Calipari used a more aggressive press than he has used all season to open the game, and while it didn't always yield turnovers, it likely paid dividends late in the game.

WATCH FOR MORE IN ERIC CRAWFORD'S GAME COLUMN, COMING IN A BIT ON WDRB.COM, AND SEE A RECAP FROM HIM ON WDRB NEWS AT 10 AND ERIC AND JOHN LEWIS BREAK DOWN THE GAME ON WDRB NEWS IN THE MORNING.

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