(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Kentucky opened up sluggish, not something you want on the road in a rivalry, and didn’t change a whole lot in the first 20 minutes. Credit to Tennessee, they came in with a game plan of playing physical and pounding it body-to-body and it worked. The Vols opened up a lead early and hardly looked back as the Cats made small runs of their own. A big turn of events that had Twitter in a tizzy was the phantom-charge on Marquis Teague (which was actually a made basket and-one) and the technical called on Coach Calipari from the official clear across the court for something he said. It was a terribly-officiated sequence of events, and made a huge difference heading into the locker room. The Cats trailed by six at the half, but probably should have been only two.
The second half showed us the true grit Kentucky has as a team. Kentucky fans often overreact (and I’m guilty sometimes too) when things don’t go the Cats way for a period — but this team is at a point where they’ll never be able to put together a full 40-minute domination; you’ve got to ride the waves. The great thing about this team, which we’ve seen twice now, is a real “will to win” in the clutch. On the road, game still in jeopardy, Kentucky has put the game away.
— Perhaps the biggest story line from this game wasn’t the game at all, rather Jimmy Dykes and his unwavering infatuation with Jarnell Stokes. I used to kind of like Dykes, and thought some of his sayings were kind of funny: “second mouse gets the cheese,” and “drive the nail.” But no more; he’s on Stone Cold Willow’s hit list.
— Coach Calipari preached in the post-game interview with Tom Leach that Kentucky needs to become a more physical team. It’s what Auburn did and what Tennessee did — simply out muscle the Cats. It’s time the team stops looking soft and really shows a fight inside. UK simply cannot expect to win games while losing rebounding battles and missing point-blank layups. Whether it’s a mental thing or simply a practice thing, it’s time to change.
— Calipari says it’s a problem with “pride” and simply believing you are better than your opponent. I like that reasoning. “We either get rougher and tougher or we just try to win as many games as we can. If this team continues to get tougher, there ain’t a lot of teams out there that can beat us.”
— Did you know Jarnell Stokes had never played an organized sport until today? He didn’t even know what to do with a basketball before this morning in pre-game.
— This is the third time in history that Kentucky has completed a trifecta sweep over Tennessee in the major sports in the same school year: Football, and men’s and women’s basketball.
— Terrence Jones is continuing his resurrection to All-American status. He finished with ten points and five rebounds. It’s nothing spectacular, but a solid outing against a very physical opponent. Still, he has plenty of room for improvement.
— While Marquis Teague didn’t blow anybody away offensively, a caller on the post-game show pointed out he was able to hold Trae Golden, Tennessee’s leading scorer, to two points.
— It was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s third career double-double as he posted 17 points and 12 rebounds. He left a lot of points on the floor with missed layups, but you need to give a lot of credit to Kidd-Gilchrist. He played phenomenally and once again, was the difference maker for Kentucky. MKG MVP.
— Kyle Wiltjer had five HUGE points in the game. Nailing a three and sinking a pair of free throws, while playing solid defense. Calipari was proud of his performance and said Wiltjer will be a great player for this program in the future.
— A “Go Big Blue” chant could be heard in the second half, which was quickly suffocated by boos from the Creamsicle® colored crowd. But it still goes to show the power of Big Blue Nation; invading a rival’s arena and having chants come through over the television. Coach Calipari even thanked those Kentucky fans who made the trip to Knoxville, and applauded the cheering effort. If you were in Thompson-Boling arena today, give yourself a pat on the back.
— Matt Jones pointed out one of the officials today was Roger Ayers — the same official who can’t count to six. How he is still calling games this season, and in the SEC even, kind of blows my mind. Yes, he was the official who called the charge on Teague and rabbit-eared Coach Cal on the other end of the floor for the T. Unbelievable.
— Kentucky shot 73% (21-29) from the free throw line today. Bravo, team. Bravo.
— If you could filter through Jimmy Dykes bull—- or just listened to the game on mute you could actually see Jarnell Stokes is a heck of a player. He logged only 17 minutes, but his time in the first half was probably the sole reason Tennessee took a lead into the half. I won’t lie, I loved seeing some of his freshman mistakes in the second half. But for his sake, he should probably learn the rules of basketball before taking to the court.
Overall, this was a great road win over a much-improved Tennessee team we saw lose to Austin-Peay and Oakland. Remember how Kentucky is every team’s Super Bowl? Well, that becomes amplified for ranked teams and rivals. Take pride in snatching this victory from the Vols. Stick around on KSR throughout the day as we’ll have more post-game goodies.