LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky swapped its biggest strength for a timely solution to perhaps its biggest weakness Saturday against visiting Tennessee.
The Wildcats were outrebounded for only the second time this season, but after missing a combined 55 free throws in their four losses to date, they went 23-for-24 at the line in a hard-fought 74-66 win over the Volunteers at Rupp Arena.
Freshman point guard Andrew Harrison scored a career-high 26 points, including a 10-for-10 day at the line, to lead No. 13 Kentucky (13-4, 3-1 SEC). The Wildcats also got 18 points from freshman forward Julius Randle and 14 points from Harrison's twin brother, Aaron, to hold off the upset-minded Vols.
Junior forward Jarnell Stokes, a one-time UK recruit, delievered an imposing 20-point, 15-rebound performance for Tennessee (11-6, 2-2 SEC).
"That's a good team," UK coach John Calipari. "Tennessee's not going to lose many in our league. I'm just happy we don't have to see them again until tournament time, possibly, and I hope we don't have to see them there."
Due to SEC expansion and a controversial new schedule for the league, the Cats and Vols will play only one time in the regular season. That could be good news for UK, which was outrebounded 39-24 by the physical Tennessee squad. Only Baylor (+16) had a larger rebounding margin this season over the Cats, who entered the game fourth nationally in that category.
"I told our guys, especially our bigs, that they did an exceptional job of keeping their big guys off the glass," Tennessee coach Quonzo Martin said. "You're talking about one of the better rebounding teams in all of college basketball, the way they crash the offensive glass. That was a focus for us, to keep them out of the lane."
Tennessee opened with a 6-0 lead and held the advantage until the final minute of the first half. UK grabbed its first lead of the game on a James Young 3-pointer 54 seconds before halftime and took the 34-32 advantage into the break.
Randle carried the load for Kentucky in the first half, scoring 16 of his 18 points, including his first 3-pointer of the season.
"I think the last three minutes of the first half they made plays," Martin said. "Randle did a great job of putting the team on his back, getting to the rim, getting fouled, making his free throws -- even made a 3-point shot. I thought they did just enough (at the end of the first half) to take the lead, get a little momentum."
The Vols regained the lead briefly in the early stages of the second half, but UK gradually pulled away to a 64-53 advantage with 4:11 to play. A driving shot by Andrew Harrison made it a 10-point lead at the 1:09 mark, and Tennessee did not threaten from that point on.
"(Andrew) Harrison did a great job of attacking that ball screen in the second half, getting in the lane, shooting a pull-up, so give him credit for making an adjustment," Martin said. "He made the plays to really get them over the hump."
Calipari said the Big Blue Nation got to see "the real Andrew Harrison" on Saturday for perhaps the first time this season.
"Did you see how fast he got by people or the way he speeds it up the court?" the UK boss said. "We're trying to say that's who you are, and when you can't be that guy, sub yourself. That other guy leads everybody to believe you're unathletic and all that stuff. But he is."
Harrison also had three assists and no turnovers in 33 minutes of action.
Kentucky shot 44 percent from the floor, but committed only eight turnovers and made seven of 16 from behind the 3-point arc, falling just one short of the Cats' season high for treys made.
• Kentucky leads the series 150-67. UK leads the series 90-16 in Lexington, including 35-4 in Rupp Arena.
• UK has won 19 consecutive home games and is 78-2 in Rupp Arena under Calipari.
• It marked the first 20-point game of Andrew Harrison’s college career.
• Randle tied his career high for assists with four.
• Kentucky continues its three-game homestand Tuesday night against Texas A&M. Game time is 9 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN.
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