(AP Photo/James Crisp)
Kentucky picked up right where it left off in Baton Rouge, steamrolling Tennessee through the first media timeout. They forced a couple of turnovers, dished the ball to Anthony Davis who was hitting from outside, and completely controlled the tempo. Then things got chippy. Terrence Jones drew an and-one and decided to do a little stare-down into the Tennessee player’s huddle. No punches were thrown, but a double technical was assessed. Needless to say, it only got Kentucky — and the Rupp Arena crowd — more fired up. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did his best DeAndre Liggins impersonation, not holding back on the smack talk on the way back up the court while Terrence Jones let his game speak for itself. Kentucky opened the half 11-for-11 from the floor but finished 2-for-8, while Renaldo “Swiperboy” Woolridge — who only had 11 made three’s on the season — came off the bench and connected on 5-of-5 in the first half to keep the Vols within striking distance.
But things only got worse for Tennessee in the second half, as Swiperboy couldn’t keep hitting; the Vols only managed 19 points (funny, that’s what Kentucky scored in the second half last week at Georgia) to Kentucky’s 31. Davis went on legitimate triple-double watch for the fourth time this season, while Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist couldn’t stop smiling up and down the court, presumably at the brutal beatdown they were committing on the hardwood. Plain and simple, this is some of the best basketball the Commonwealth of Kentucky has seen in a long time. Now, let’s hit the highlights of the game:
— Not that Kentucky needed any type of awakening after their recent stretch of games, but Tennessee just pissed off a proverbial sleeping giant too early in this one. The Cats completely dominated the Volunteers behind a charged-up Rupp Arena. It was the best sounding crowed I’ve heard over my television speakers in a while, and judging by the emotion on the court from the players I’d say they were feeding off it.
— Anthony Davis was your leading scorer with 18, but Terrence Jones poured in 11 to go along with a perfect 6-6 night at the free throw line. It’s been said a thousand times since last week, but I’ll say it again: This is Terrence Jones, and Kentucky will not lose with him.’
— More on Davis: Tonight was almost the night for the triple-double. He had nine minutes to block three shots and get two more rebounds… But he couldn’t get one more of either. I’m starting to wonder if we’ll see a triple-double this season. But if the Cats get No. 8 I don’t think anyone will care.
— Marquis Teague continued his solid string of “true point-guard games” dishing out four assists versus two turnovers. He made a solid five of six free throws to add to his nine points. He doesn’t post huge numbers, but Kentucky doesn’t need huge numbers from Teague. More games like that means more blowout wins. He’s doing the right things, making the right decisions, and making no mental errors. I’m beginning to think Teague is figuring this whole point guard thing out.
— An awkward moment happened just before a media timeout in the first half, and it is hilarious for several reasons:
First, Marquis Teague gets a sudden dash of excitement and pulls up for a layup at least eight feet from the rim. But then you see him use Kenny Hall’s groin as a step ladder, elevating a good three or four inches off the firm stomp. Finally, you see Hall flop as if he were punched in the face, to no avail. It was a block. I may be the only one who find this sequence of events hilarious, but I wanted to share.
— One of the prettiest plays of the game wasn’t that hulk smash, but Terrence Jones’ steal, hurdle, fast break and outlet pass to MKG for a one-handed slam. It was so effortless and fluid and both guys just smiled after the play like they had practiced it over and over. I tell you what, that’s some fun basketball to watch.
— Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played some extensive minutes guarding Jarnell Stokes, holding the infantile hoopster to a four-point, six-rebound game. Welcome to Earth, Mr. Stokes. Terrence Jones asked Calipari to put him on Woolridge after he made his first five shots from outside. After Jones guarded him he didn’t make another.
— Darius Miller cooled off a touch, only scoring four points and failing to connect on a three pointer. But he did have a big and-one on a put back off an Anthony Davis miss late in the second half, just after Coach Calipari ripped him from the sidelines for not passing. It’s not fair to expect monster shooting games from Miller every time out, but it is a little disappointing to see zero’s in the stat column after the way he has shot recently.
— Doron Lamb made the lone three-pointer tonight, preserving the “consecutive games with a three-point basket” streak. Lamb continues to score below his season average, but he’s giving it all on the court, and you can’t ask for more than that.
— This week marks the beginning of a huge portion of the schedule for Kentucky. On the road at South Carolina, then Florida, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State are not too far off. Kentucky is just about through the “easy portion” of the SEC schedule, and has plenty of big tests of the horizon. The Cats are clicking on all cylinders right now, so it will be very interesting to see how that translates to increased competition.
— Tennessee shot an abysmal 28% from the floor. If you take away Jerome Maymon and Swiperboy Woolridge’s five three’s, The Volunteers scored 16 points. Yikes.
— Kentucky has now beaten Tennessee in football, women’s basketball, and men’s basketball twice this school year for total dominance in the border war.
— Much like the game at LSU, you really need to dig to find a negative in this one. Last time it was free throws, not so today. Kentucky made 24 out of a possible 27, good for 89%. I’m speechless.
— However, if you do want to mention something, aside from the 1-for-10 shooting from three, you can point to Calipari not getting to the bench sooner. The Cats had a sizable lead all the way in this one, but never cleared the bench for the walk-ons. What gives? It’s nothing major, but Jarrod Polson and Brian Long live for those blowout moments, and I feel their pain rising from under the scorer’s table to take a seat back on the bench, as they watch the clock whittle away.
In the end, it was Kentucky running away with the game, extending the final score to its largest lead of the game of 25. Vegas favored the Cats by 16.5, meaning they have beaten the spread for three straight games (not that it means anything). Kentucky improves to 8-0 in the SEC and will prepare for a trip to Columbia, South Carolina on Saturday. The Gamecocks lost earlier this season 79-64 in Rupp Arena.
I leave you with a stat nugget Matt dropped on the post-game show: Since the shot-clock era began, Kentucky has held its last three opponents to the fewest points in a three-game stretch EVER.