The Kentucky Wildcats, with their backs against the wall, pulled out a big road win when they needed it most, upsetting the 11th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, 80-78. Randolph Morris led Kentucky with 22 points and nine rebounds. Rajon Rondo chipped in with 16 points and eight assists.
“We played solid against LSU,” said Randolph Morris, “but came up a little short. This game we finally put it all together.”
Kentucky (19-10 overall, 9-6 SEC) overcame a 14-point deficit in the first half by dominating the glass and hitting their shots. The Wildcats struggled much of the first half, yet trailed by only seven at the half.
“Randolph Morris was huge tonight,” said coach Tubby Smith, “and Brandon Stockton was big all night, diving on the floor and mixing it up.”
The Wildcats would get the job done in the second half. Bobby Perry got the action started by canning a three point shot from the corner to pull the Cats to within four at 45-41. Senior Ravi Moss would follow up with a long range shot of his own and within one minute the Cats were within one point.
"We made some huge defensive stops,” said Smith, “and that gave us confidence that we could win this thing. It all started on the defensive end. Tennessee took it to us on the boards in Lexington but we really got the job done on the glass tonight.”
“We let the game come to us tonight,” Morris said, “this time Tennessee played a little tired. We came in as the underdog, but tonight they played a little like the underdog.”
The two teams would play evenly for the next four minutes until Brandon Stockton canned a three pointer at the 15:22 mark to give the Cats its first lead since the opening moments of the game. The Vols would hang tough, however, behind the sizzling shooting of Chris Lofton, JuJuan Smith and C. J. Watson. At the 8:15 mark Watson would can a three pointer to tie the game at 69.
But Watson would foul Joe Crawford on the next play. Crawford hit both free throws and the Cats would not give up the lead thereafter. The senior Watson, playing in his last home game for the Vols, would score six consecutive points to keep the Vols very close, but a Randolph Morris dunk gave the Cats a modest 3-point cushion at 78-75 at the 3:30 mark. After a Dane Bradshaw free throw, Rajon Rondo would make a lay up and the Cats were up by four and hung on for the victory.
”This was a very satisfying win,” said coach Tubby Smith, “and it was a win we had to have. These kids really did the job tonight. They came into a hostile arena, and we got down early. But we came back and took their crowd out of the game.”
“Patrick Sparks did a great job containing Chris Lofton,” said Smith, “we were prepared properly and very determined.”
Kentucky shot just over 60% from the field including 9-19 from three point range. Joe Crawford and Brandon Stockton combined for 5-9 from long range. Kentucky returns home to face Florida on senior night. The game will decide sole possession of 2nd place in the SEC East, as the Gators also won tonight beating Georgia 77-66. The game will be televised nationally on CBS beginning at 12:00 noon.
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