No. 1 Tennessee had the longest winning streak in the nation at 19 games heading into Saturday's top-5 matchup with Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Key word: Had.
The No. 5 Wildcats cruised to an 86-69 win over the top team in the nation, shooting nearly 55 percent from the field. Kentucky led by as much as 24 points in the second half, helped out by a 14-0 run to start the second frame.
Tennessee came alive for a small stretch midway through the second half with a 13-0 run, trimming UK's lead to 11. But the Wildcats withstood the run and clinched the game behind a balanced effort that saw four double-digit scorers.
PJ Washington finished with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Keldon Johnson chipped in 19 and Tyler Herro had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds in an all-around effort.
Meanwhile, for the Vols (23-2), the star duo of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield finished Saturday's game with 33 combined points. Williams was just 3-of-4 from the field while Schofield was 7-of-18.
Kentucky (21-4, 10-2 SEC) gained some ground in the SEC standings with the win, now sitting one game behind Tennessee and LSU (both 11-1 in conference play).
Follow below for a full recap of Saturday's surprising result:
Kentucky-Tennessee: Full recap of the Wildcats' 86-69 win
Kentucky-Tennessee: Time, TV channel
The Wildcats and Volunteers are set for an 8 p.m. ET tip from Lexington, Ky. The game will start at 8 p.m., with Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and Maria Taylor calling the game.
Kentucky-Tennessee basketball preview
Friday, Nov. 23.
That's the last time Tennessee lost a game, when the Vols fell to then-No. 2 Kansas, 87-81 in overtime.
Since then, Tennessee knocked off then-No. 1 Gonzaga, got 43 points from Grant Williams to escape Vanderbilt in overtime and have also routed a handful of SEC foes.
Even with Kentucky falling to LSU on Tuesday, this game should be different — and difficult.
The Wildcats rank in the top 20 on both offense and defense on KenPom, plus UK will have the benefit of a raucous Rupp atmosphere.
Before losing to LSU, Kentucky had won 10 in a row, a run that included wins against ranked Auburn, Mississippi State and Kansas teams in three consecutive games. Sophomore PJ Washington has emerged as a force, scoring at least 20 points in six of the last seven games.
A year ago, Tennessee beat UK 76-65 and then 61-59 before the Wildcats returned the favor in the SEC tournament championship game (77-72).
If Tennessee can beat UK, the Wildcats will lose two in a row at home for the first time since the 2008-09 season, when they lost to LSU and Georgia on February 28 and March 4.
|Record (SEC)||20-4 (9-2)||23-1 (11-0)|
|AP ranking||No. 5||No. 1|
|NET ranking||No. 6||No. 4|
|Def. FG percentage||40.7||39.1|
|Scoring leader||PJ Washington||Grant Williams|
|(points per game)||14.4||19.4|
|Rebounding leader||PJ Washington||Grant Williams|
|(rebounds per game)||8.1||7.4|
|Assist leader||Ashton Hagans||Jordan Bone|
|(assists per game)||4.4||6.5|
By record, LSU is the closest challenger to No. 1 Tennessee, but a UK win would add more drama to the SEC regular-season title chase.
However, if the Vols to beat UK, Tennessee would take a three-game lead on the Wildcats, with the two set to play later in Knoxville, Tenn., on March 2.
Though Tennessee invades Rupp with the top ranking, the Volunteers will welcome the underdog mindset that comes with playing top-5 UK on the road. Duke will be ready to pounce on that No. 1 ranking should the Wildcats beat the Vols.
Reigning SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams scored 18, 10 and 15 points in three meetings with Kentucky last season. He's upped his game this year, averaging almost 20 points per game.
But Williams doesn't lead the Vols alone. Admiral Schofield averages 16.7 points per game, giving Tennessee two key players defenses must always account for.
Even though Kentucky is third in the country in rebounding margin at plus-9.8, Tennessee's offense might have just a little too much.
It would be weird — and rare — to see Kentucky lose twice at home in one week. But the Volunteers have the talent and experience to do just that.