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Reaction to Kentucky basketball toppling top-ranked Tennessee

Is PJ Washington the best player in the SEC?

After scoring 23 points in Kentucky basketball’s 86-69 win over top-ranked Tennessee on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, UK sophomore PJ Washington is asked if he’s the best player in the SEC. Washington made nine of 12 shots from the floor.
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After scoring 23 points in Kentucky basketball’s 86-69 win over top-ranked Tennessee on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, UK sophomore PJ Washington is asked if he’s the best player in the SEC. Washington made nine of 12 shots from the floor.

Reaction to Kentucky’s 86-69 win over No. 1 Tennessee on Saturday:

Rout of Tennessee shows how much UK has grown, writes Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “In more ways than one, an 86-69 rout of No. 1 Tennessee on Saturday night served as something of a growth chart for Kentucky, which barely three months earlier opened the season with a stunning 34-point loss to Duke.”

Kentucky regains its indispensable player, writes Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. “John Calipari used a post-practice video session Thursday to essentially file a basketball missing persons report. With No. 5 Kentucky coming off an upset home loss to LSU and about to face No. 1 Tennessee, Cal put an all-points bulletin out for “the absent” Ashton Hagans.”

Kentucky exposed Tennessee as overrated, writes Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports. “With a little more than two minutes left Saturday night, the Kentucky student section started the old ‘overrated’ chant, aiming it at the No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers. Wildcats coach John Calipari personally shut it down, waving his arms and yelling, ‘No! No! Stop!’”

Tyler Herro has big rebounding night, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “Herro had only one rebound against LSU on Tuesday, and totaled 12 in UK’s four most recent games. Only twice this season has a UK player grabbed more rebounds. Nick Richards had 19 against Southern Illinois. Washington had 18 against VMI.”

Kentucky win is a blessing for Tennessee, writes Matt Norlander of CBS Sports. “Kentucky 86, Tennessee 69 is going to be the kind of score that reverberates throughout college basketball and serves as a bullet point on the Wildcats’ résumé come Selection Sunday. Not just an impressive win, but a statement that will ring loudest of any this weekend.”

Tennessee will be No. 1 no more, writes Mike Wilson of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “Jordan Bone tried to save a loose ball in the second half Saturday at Kentucky. The Tennessee junior caught the ball on UT’s baseline, jumped and saw no good options. He prayerfully chucked the ball off Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson. But it bounced back, hit Bone and landed out of bounds.”

The fifth-ranked Kentucky men's basketball team defeated No. 1 Tennessee 86-69 on Saturday in Rupp Arena in Lexington.

Kentucky played with something to prove, says my takeaways. “Much like when it defeated North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic back in December, Kentucky played with a purpose to take down the top-ranked Vols. Against UNC, Calipari’s club was out to prove it was not the same team that was rudely waxed by Duke in the season-opener. Against UT, the Cats were out to prove they were better than the immature group that squandered a nine-point lead in the second half and lost to LSU four days before.

Rick Barnes wonders where his Vols went, writes John Adams of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said he didn’t recognize his team Saturday night at Rupp Arena. The Top-25 voters probably didn’t, either. UT never looked less like a No. 1 team than in an 86-69 loss to No. 5 Kentucky that ended its school-record 19-game winning streak. And it was apparent right away that the Vols’ month-long run at No. 1 was in jeopardy.”

Kentucky’s complete game is too much for Tennessee, writes Jeff Borzello of ESPN. “This is what we’ve been waiting to see from Kentucky since the Wildcats entered the season after fighting for the No. 1 preseason spot with Kansas. A talented team with five-stars and McDonald’s All-Americans up and down the roster, John Calipari was noticeably confident about his team in October and November.”

Vols can still reach their ultimate goal, says Joe Rexrode of the Tennessean. “Think of Saturday as an audit, which is fitting because most of No. 5 Kentucky’s rollicking 86-69 rout of No. 1 Tennessee was probably about as enjoyable as an interview with the IRS for Vols fans. Those who were still tuned in may have taken some comfort in their team fighting back to cut a 24-point deficit to 11, before it settled in at 17 — sort of like getting a piece of candy from the jar on your way out of the IRS branch. But the story of this night was the 24-point deficit, for a team that had yet to trail by more than 12 in a game all season and had lost once, in overtime to then-No. 2 Kansas on a neutral floor.”

Tennessee basketball star Admiral Schofield talks about the No. 1-ranked Volunteers' loss to Kentucky at Rupp Arena in Lexington on Saturday night.

Kentucky takes a step, writes Eric Crawford of WDRB. “The University of Kentucky basketball team popped its head up into Tennessee’s month-long perch at No. 1, and delivered a statement Saturday night. Loosely translated, it reads: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

Kentucky’s players sent a different message, says Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal. “Kentucky never trailed after PJ Washington put the Wildcats on the board with a 3-pointer 77 seconds into the game. With each Washington post-move in the first half, Kentucky looked more and more like the superior team, but Tennessee managed to keep things close, trailing by six at intermission. A 14-0 run to open the second half stretched the lead to 20, and the Wildcats would eventually lead by as many as 24 points.”

UK thumps Tennessee, reports Jeff Drummond of Cats Illustrated. “Kentucky shot 55 percent from the field, held a 39-26 rebounding advantage and led for all but 28 seconds in the first top-five matchup between the border rivals in 226 meetings. Tennessee (23-2, 11-1 SEC) was held to 41 percent shooting from the field and trailed by as many as 24 points in the second half.”

Kentucky looks like title contender, says Derek Terry of the Cats Pause. “Kentucky wants you to know it’s not going anywhere. After a controversial loss to LSU earlier in the week ended a 10-game winning streak, the young Wildcats looked like the more experienced team in a beatdown of No. 1 Tennessee. The Vols trailed by 24 points in the second half and left Rupp Arena with their first loss since the day after Thanksgiving.”

UK comes out on top in heavyweight battle, writes Chase Campbell of the Kentucky Kernel. “Though Big Blue Nation would’ve preferred the Vols lay down after seemingly being run out of Rupp Arena, they went on a 13-0 run later in the half to draw to within 11 points. The Cats helped Tennessee out on this run, fouling two three-point shooters in the process. UK’s lead never shrank below double digits though, fouling out Schofield and Kyle Alexander to keep their physical advantage in the game.”

Could loss to UK be good for Vols? Asks Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “Maybe this was inevitable, the top-ranked University of Tennessee men’s basketball team’s 86-69 loss to the fifth-ranked University of Kentucky inside Rupp Arena on Saturday night. You win 19 games in a row, there’s bound to be a clunker here and there, especially with Big Blue in a big hurt after Tuesday’s home loss to LSU.”

Kentucky-Tennessee box score

Tennessee says Kentucky kicked its butt, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “The verdict among Tennessee’s players was unanimous following Saturday night’s game. What started as a clash of top five teams — the No. 1-ranked Volunteers and the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats — quickly turned into an old-fashioned butt whoopin’, and there was nothing the Vols could do about it.”

Kentucky completes its metamorphosis, writes Molly Geary of Sports Illustrated. “The Wildcats were hungrier for this one, and it showed. It showed when they outhustled Tennessee to loose balls. It showed when they crashed the glass and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds. It showed when they bullied their way through the paint, winning that battle 36 to 20. And it showed when they beat multiple Vols down the floor in transition.”

UK dominates from start to finish, writes Keith Taylor of KyForward. “Kentucky was the better team in the first of two showdowns between the two conference rivals. Coming off a disappointing 73-71 loss to LSU earlier this week, the Wildcats needed a dose of momentum to carry them through the remainder of the regular season in front of the 3rd-largest crowd in Rupp Arena history.”

Tennessee says it looked like phonies, writes Nathaniel Rutherford of Rocky Top Insider. “Williams couldn’t get his game going the way he’s used to, either. He attempted just four field goals the entire game, and two of them came from behind the three-point line. He made both of those shots, and he got fouled shooting another. He finished the game with 16 points and eight rebounds while shooting 3-of-4 from the field and 8-of-9 from the free throw line.”

Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes talks about his team’s 86-69 loss at Kentucky on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. The top-ranked Volunteers saw their 19-game win streak snapped. UT is now 11-1 in the SEC. UK is 10-2.

SEC men’s basketball standings

Ole Miss8-418-7
S Carolina8-413-12
Miss State6-618-7
Texas A&M3-910-14

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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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