Freshman John Wall connected on a layup midway through the second half to break a 50-50 deadlock, sparking an 18-6 Kentucky run over the next five minutes, allowing the Wildcats to open up a double-digit lead over a tough Volunteer squad. The Vols would never recover and the Cats held on for a 73-62 win in Rupp Arena on Saturday night.
Fellow freshman Eric Bledsoe scored 10 points in that critical run, including two key three point baskets. Bledsoe finished with 16 points. Wall led all scorers with 24.
The Volunteers hung in with the Wildcats, overcoming an 8-point deficit to actually briefly capture the lead with just :46 remaining in the first half. The Volunteer charge was led by an unlikely hero, Bobby Maze, who scored Tennessee’s last six point of the half.
The Vols came out of the break playing toe to toe with the #2-ranked Wildcats, playing before a 24,000-plus capacity crowd in Rupp Arena. The Cats had a very difficult time figuring out the Tennessee zone defense, which frustrated the Wildcats, particularly DeMarcus Cousins, who missed a double-double for the first time in eight ball games.
The Wildcats improve 24-1 (9-1 SEC). The Vols fell to 18-5
Up next for the Cats is Mississippi State in Starkville next Tuesday. The Bulldogs beat Auburn tonight in overtime and are undefeated at home in SEC play.