Tennessee beat the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday night at Thompson Boling Arena to stay ranked in the A.P. Top 25.
Even though everything ended well for the Vols, their recent struggles continued in the first half against Kentucky. Tennessee found themselves in a 9 point hole at the half, and every time the Vols would go on a run to get the game close again, Kentucky would go on a run of their own to push the lead back to around 10.
The game began to change early in the second half when Tennessee forced a few quick turnovers and quickly tied the game up. Then P.J. Washington, who had torched the Vols in the first half, left the game with cramps and was never able to return. The Vols began to catch fire offensively and never looked back.
Admiral Schofield was the high-man for Tennessee with 20 points. Schofield filled up every part of the stat sheet with 9 boards, 4 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block. Grant Williams also had a big game on the big stage. Williams put up 18 points and brought down 8 rebounds.
Tennessee ended up winning the game 76-65, and only dropping one spot in the A.P. Poll to #24 despite the disappointing showing against Auburn earlier in the week. Now Tennessee heads to Nashville to try to pick up their first road SEC win this season against Vanderbilt.
Vandy is 6-9 overall, and 1-2 in the SEC. The Commodores lone conference win came last Tuesday against Alabama. Tennessee is a much better team than Vanderbilt, but the Vols have to keep their focus and can not look ahead to this weekend’s showdown with Texas A&M.
The Dores are lead by Jeff Roberson and Matthew Fisher-Davis. We should see a bunch of Jeff Roberson vs Grant Williams Tuesday, and that match up definitely favors the Vols. Roberson can pop off for 25 points on occasion, but that seems highly unlikely to happen against Grant Williams. Another match up to watch will be Matthew Fisher-Davis against Jordan Bowden. Fisher-Davis had a season-high 31 points in the overtime loss against USC back in November, but he also had a 2 point outing against the Sun Devils of Arizona State.
Last year, the two teams split the season series with Tennessee winning in Nashville and Vanderbilt winning in Knoxville. Look for Nashville native Jordan Bone to play with some extra intensity tonight in front of his family and friends.
These are the kinds of games the Vols have to win to become a real contender on the national level. Winning on the road is always tough, but good teams take care of business away from home when they are playing an inferior opponent. Hopefully, Tennessee can build off the momentum they gained in the second half of the Kentucky game, and come out swinging in the first half.
A win tonight would get the Vols to 2-2 in SEC play with two important games coming up next on the schedule. With the A&M game looming this weekend, and a trip to Mizzou to face former Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin next week, falling to 1-3 in conference play would be a disaster for Rick Barnes and Tennessee.
Tip-off is at 8 CT tonight on SEC Network.