Wall, No. 3 Kentucky beat No. 12 Tennessee, 73-62

By Jeffrey MacMurray

Feb. 14, 2010

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — After missing two 3-point

attempts in the first half, Kentucky freshman Eric Bledsoe told coach

John Calipari he had lost confidence in his shot.

Calipari’s message, to Bledsoe’s surprise: Keep shooting, anyway.


second half resurgence, along with yet another stellar performance by

fellow freshman guard John Wall, helped No. 3 Kentucky fight off No. 12

Tennessee for a 73-62 victory Saturday night.

Down 52-50 midway

through the second half after a three-point play by J.P. Prince,

Kentucky (24-1, 9-1) scored the next 10 points — six of them by Wall

— to give Calipari his first win over Bruce Pearl in a Southeastern

Conference matchup. The two met annually when Calipari coached at


Wall was the game’s leading scorer with 24, one off his

career high set earlier this season against UConn. However, Wall

acknowledged the true star of the game was Bledsoe, who got all 16 of

his points in the second half and clinched the victory with three

clutch shots in a row: a fastbreak layup followed by two 3-pointers.

Bledsoe credits a halftime chat with Calipari, who told him to keep shooting even if he misses.

“He was like, ‘If you get it, shoot it,'” Bledsoe said. “Everybody else will crash the boards.”

In the second half, though, they didn’t have to. Kentucky’s backcourt led a 20-4 run that buried the Vols.


showed so much courage in what he did and how he played,” Calipari

said. “…I tell him, ‘You don’t have to shoot a 3. You have to be

prepared to shoot a 3.'”

Bobby Maze led the Vols (18-6, 6-4) with 15 points. Melvin Goins had a career-high 14.


the Wildcats pulled away at the end, the two teams battled for the lead

most of the night. Kentucky kept the Vols in it partly due to poor free

throw shooting, particularly by DeMarcus Cousins, who connected on just

one of eight attempts.

Cousins, who was going for an eighth

consecutive double-double, managed 12 rebounds but scored only five

points. The Kentucky record remains 10 straight, set by Jim Andrews in


Much of the focus going into the game was on the other big

man, Tennessee center Wayne Chism, whose right ankle was in a boot at

practice this week because of an injury he sustained in the Vols’ loss

to Vanderbilt.

Chism didn’t start but made an immediate impact

when he entered less than four minutes in. He nailed a 3-pointer on his

first touch, then added a reverse layup to ignite 12-1 Tennessee run.


the Vols got their big man back, the Wildcats briefly lost theirs

during the Tennessee scoring stretch. Cousins, who had barreled into

the media table during a play underneath the basket, was sidelined for

2 minutes with an apparent injury to his left leg.

Cousins was

healthy enough a few minutes later to turn in one of the highlight

plays of the game. After DeAndre Liggins missed a long jumper, Prince

seemed to have both hands on the ball for an easy rebound. But Cousins

robbed him in mid air, dunking it back into the hoop to give the

Wildcats their biggest early lead at 20-14.

Although Chism’s

ankle held up fine, he was sidelined with a lower back bruise late in

the first half after committing a hard foul. He was back on the court

for the start of the second half but got only two of his 12 points

after intermission.

Two free throws by Liggins put Kentucky up 30-29 at halftime.


said Kentucky won because it deciphered the Vols’ zone defense.

Bledsoe’s performance made the Wildcats’ practically unguardable

considering Tennessee already had all it could handle keeping up with

Wall, one of the nation’s most skilled players.

“John Wall is

great,” Pearl said. “He plays effortlessly. He’s got a high basketball

IQ. Wall was able to slice and dice us and did what he wanted to do.”


turned the ball over 15 times, but Calipari said earlier this week that

he could live with a number like that if the team played aggressive

defense. It did that, holding Tennessee under 40 percent from the field.


Tennessee teams have finished above Kentucky in the SEC standings four

straight years — the only program in conference history to do that.

However, Kentucky’s win keeps them in sole possession of first in the

SEC East, one game ahead of Vanderbilt.

Even in a lackluster

season for the Wildcats last year that resulted in an NIT berth, the

games against Tennessee provided highlights. UK won both convincingly,

including in Knoxville, where former Wildcat Jodie Meeks set a

single-game team record with 54 points. Meeks attended Saturday’s game

and was introduced to loud cheers from the capacity crowd.