No. 2 Kentucky outlasts Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was angry after he and fellow freshman Anthony Davis didn't get much help from their Kentucky teammates in the first half against Tennessee. He made sure the Wildcats knew it at halftime.
"He was the main one who came into the locker room mad," Davis said. "(He was) really feisty because we weren't playing like we were supposed to. That's just how he plays. You know he's got a will to win, and he brings a lot."
His anger inspired the second-ranked Wildcats, who wore the Volunteers down with more pressing defense and sharper shooting. Kentucky overcame an eight-point deficit in the second half for a 65-62 victory Saturday.
The win marked Kentucky's second Southeastern Conference road victory of the season, matching its total for all last season. The Wildcats won in Knoxville in 2011 and have won four straight against the Vols.
Davis finished with 18 points and had four blocks to pull within one of tying the school season record of 83. Kidd-Gilchrist added 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Terrence Jones scored 10 points before fouling out with 3:55 to play.
The Wildcats (17-1, 3-0) not only came from behind in the second half, but also held off a late effort by the Vols, who had upset then-No. 13 Florida the previous Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Kentucky coach John Calipari wasn't thrilled about having to do either.
"If we want to be unique and special, we're either going to get tougher and negate the physical play people are using on us, or we're just going to be another team out there trying to win as many as we can. That's it," he said. "We talk better today, but we still need to execute better."
Davis capped an 8-0 run with a short jumper to give Kentucky a 62-54 lead with 53 seconds left.
Skylar McBee hit a 3-pointer for the Vols. After a timeout, Jeronne Maymon fouled Kentucky's Doron Lamb, who missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Cameron Tatum hit another 3 to cut the Wildcats' margin to 62-60 with 28 seconds left.
Darius Miller hit two free throws and Kidd-Gilchrist added another in the final 20 seconds. Tatum attempted another 3 with 10 seconds left, but the ball bounced off the rim to end the Vols' hopes for a comeback.
Tatum led the Volunteers (8-9, 1-2) with 16 points, and Maymon had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The Vols also got a boost from Jarnell Stokes, a highly rated prospect who joined the team Monday after graduating from high school a semester early. With Stokes joining Maymon and Kenny Hall on the blocks, Tennessee took its chances by running right at the nation's leading shot-blocking team and locking down the lane on defense.
"I thought we were playing defense the way this program will be accustomed to playing defense: hard, aggressive and physical," said Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, who faced Kentucky for the first time in his career as a coach or player. "We've still got a ways to go as far as I'm concerned, but we're making the necessary strides we need to be a really good defensive program."
Maymon converted a three-point play with 3:09 in the first half, and he and Tatum hit 3 of 4 from the free throw line over a 30-second stretch. Stokes drew a charge by Marquis Teague, which enfuriated Calipari, who was tagged with a technical foul arguing the call.
Tatum hit one of the free throws awarded to Tennessee, who retained possession because of the technical. Stokes, who finished 4 of 5 from the field for nine points, rebounded a missed shot and hit a layup to give the Vols their 34-28 halftime lead and send the fans into a frenzy.
"Coach really prepared me for it," Stokes said. "I was just playing for my team and the state of Tennessee. It was definitely different. There was a lot of adrenaline going, but that's how I'll continue to play."
The Wildcats, who had only trailed at halftime three times this season, were more patient with their shots in the second half and turned up the defensive heat to wear down Tennessee. The Vols entered the noon game on a quick turnaround, having lost 62-58 at No. 20 Mississippi State on Thursday after a 9 p.m. tipoff.
Kentucky shot 50 percent in the second half and limited Tennessee to 39.3 percent. The Wildcats also got their only two 3s of the game in the second half, one by Kyle Wiltjer and another from Kidd-Gilchrist.
"We have a will to win," Davis said. "We're a great ball club. You know we never give up. When we are down like 10 with a couple of minutes left we just kept fighting. We don't like losing."