Sidelines with John Clay

Liveblog: No. 5 Kentucky 86, No. 1 Tennessee 69

Hoping to rebound from Tuesday’s loss to LSU, No. 5-ranked Kentucky plays host to No. 1-ranked and SEC leader Tennessee in a key SEC basketball game on Saturday at Rupp Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. on ESPN.

We will be providing live updates and analysis from Rupp. Follow us on Twitter at @johnclayiv, @jerrytipton, @benrobertshl, @markcstory, @alexslitzphoto and @kentuckysports. Scroll down for dedicated Twitter list.


Officials for UK-Tennessee are Doug Sirmons, Lee Cassell and Ron Groover. . . . Heading into Saturday’s games, Tennessee was No. 5 in the latest kenpom rankings. The Vols ranked second in offensive efficiency and 40th in defensive efficiency. Kentucky was No. 7 in the overall rankings. UK was 18th on offense and No. 8 on defense. . . . Tennessee has not played a ranked team since its 76-73 win over then No. 1 Gonzaga on Dec. 9. Kentucky has played five ranked teams since Dec. 9. The Cats have gone 4-1 against those five. . . . Tennessee’s Grant Williams is averaging 19.7 points per game and shooting 57 percent from the floor. UK’s PJ Washington is averaging 14.4 points and shooting 51.5 percent from the floor.

Kentucky starters: Ashton Hagans, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, Reid Travis, PJ Washington. Tennessee starters: Jordan Bone, Lamonte Turner, Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, Kyle Alexander.

Mark Story looks at the matchups and gives a game prediction.

First half

Kentucky 7, Tennessee 4 (15:08) - PJ Washington has all seven of UK’s points. Could have been more but Washington missed a pair of free throws. That was after Washington picked up a charging foul 15 seconds into the game. Interesting move by Tennessee. Just over a minute in, Vols’ coach Rick Barnes subbed in Jordan Bowden for Admiral Schofield, though Schofield returned a couple of minutes later. One other note: During the TV timeout, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin was booed when he was shown on the video board.

Kentucky 23, Tennessee 18 (6:25) - We went a long time between TV timeouts. And in the menatime, Keldon Johnson went nuts. The freshman is now up to 13 points. Unable to get the ball in the paint, Tennessee is settling for jumpers. The Vols are 8-of-18 from the floor. UK is 9-of-19. The Vols have yet to get to the foul line. And Kentucky has a 14-7 edge on the boards. John Calipari said he had been on his team about “rebound attempts” which he said had gone down the past few games.

Kentucky 29, Tennessee 21 (3:56) - UK now up 17-7 on the boards. Second-chance points breaking down as 7-2 in favor of Kentucky. Before TV timeout, Nick Richards was fighting for a rebound, which had John Calipari clapping furiously from the UK bench. Tennessee is 9-of-21 from the floor for 42.9 percent. Vols came into the game shooting 51 percent as a team.

Kentucky 31, Tennessee 27 (1:46) - Schofield scores on a couple of drives. UK turns it over. Lamonte Turner scores on a fast break bucket. UK lead down to four. Calipari calls time.

Halftime: Kentucky 37, Tennessee 31 - PJ Washington and Keldon Johnson each scored 13 points for the Cats, who shot 59.3 percent from the floor in the first half. Cats made 16 of 27 shots, including four of nine from three-point range. Tennessee shot 46.7 percent. Vols were 3-of-11 from three. Rick Barnes’ club did not make it to the free throw line. Kentucky up 17-11 on the boards, but Tennessee had an 8-7 edge on second-chance points.

Big question for second half: Can Kentucky keep up the hot shooting? Calipari said on Friday his team would have to make shots to beat the nation’s top-ranked team. Some of those shots are coming in the paint, where UT’s Admiral Schofield has his hands full with Washington, who has at least two inches on the Tennessee senior.

Halftime box

Second half

Kentucky 42, Tennessee 31 (19:07) - Washington picks up where he left off with a hook shot in the lane. Then Reid Travis fights and secures rebound, kicks to Tyler Herro for a three. Rick Barnes not liking the way this is starting, calls time.

Kentucky 51, Tennessee 31 (16:31) - UK on a 14-0 run. Rick Barnes uses his second timeout in less than four minutes.

Kentucky 62, Tennessee 38 (11:25) - Cats playing much like they did against North Carolina in CBS Sports Classic when they had something to prove. Same here after Tuesday night’s loss to LSU. Kentucky shooting 61.5 percent for the game after making eight of 12 shots this half. Keldon Johnson has 17 points. PJ Washington has 16. Tennessee is shooting just 37.2 percent.

Kentucky 62, Tennessee 49 (9:33) - Vols on an 11-0 run. UK on another scoring drought? Calipari calls time. Cats have not scored in 3:04.

Kentucky 68, Tennessee 53 (6:45) - Vols cut lead to 11 with 13-0 run, but Cats have now pushed lead back to 15. Before TV time, Tyler Herro rebounded his own missed shot twice and scored on third attempt, while being fouled. Herro now has 10 rebounds on the game. Kentucky has a 30-22 edge on the boards. Tennessee center Kyle Alexander has fouled out. UK shooting 56.5 percent from the floor for the game. Tennessee is shooting 39.6. Points in paint: UK 32-18.

Kentucky 71, Tennessee 58 (3:51) - UK attempting to close out against the nation’s No. 1-ranked team. You have to wonder how much the fact that Tennessee had not played a ranked team since Dec. 9 (Gonzaga) figured into the way this game has played out. Kentucky had played five ranked teams since then, winning four of the five. Points in paint a big factor. UK up 34-20 in that category. PJ Washington has 23 points. He’s playing like the SEC’s MVP.

Final: Kentucky 86, Tennessee 69 - Tennessee has its 19-game win streak snapped. Vols are 11-1 in SEC, tied with LSU for first place. Kentucky now 10-2. PJ Washington led UK with 23 points. Tyler Herro finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Keldon Johnson scored 19 points.

Final box

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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