LEXINGTON, Ky. – Tennessee came up short in its bid for the Vols first win at Rupp Arena since 2006 as Kentucky captured a 75-65 victory on Tuesday night. Tennessee fell to 0-3 in the SEC and 8-7 overall, losing its fourth game in a row.
Jordan McRae led the Vols in scoring (see full box here) for the fourth game in a row with 23; he's averaging 24.0 over the last four games. He became the first Vol since Chris Lofton with four consecutive games of 20 points or more. Lofton, who sat behind the Vols bench on Tuesday, did it five games in a row in Jan.-Feb. 2008.
Kentucky (11-5, 2-1 SEC) was led by Kyle Wiltjer's 17 points. Nerlens Noel (12), Ryan Harrow (12) and Alex Poythress (10) also scored in double-figures. Julius Mays' (nine points) pair of late 3-pointers did the Vols in.
The Vols were in foul trouble all night as both Yemi Makanjuola and Jarnell Stokes fouled out after combining for just six points and eight rebounds in only 27 total minutes.
The Vols' last win at Rupp came on Feb. 7, 2006 as Lofton poured in 31 points. All-time Tennessee is 4-34 at Rupp since it opened in 1977.
"I think we fought hard," Tennessee guard Jordan McRae said. "But kind of like the last three games, it's been key plays down the stretch that we've had to make down the stretch that we didn't make."
Kentucky hit consecutive shots to break a 56-56 tie as Harrow laid home the go-ahead bucket then Mays canned a 3-pointer from the left win with 4:58 left in regulation. That gave the Cats a 61-56 lead. Mays hit another trey with 4:20 left to put the Cats ahead by six at 64-58.
Wiltjer followed with two layups and a free throw to put the Cats ahead 69-62 with 1:42 left in the game.
Noel's slam dunk with a minute left sealed the win, putting UK ahead by eight at 71-63.
The Vols had a chance to cut the deficit to one possession as Mays was called for a flagrant foul, sending Josh Richardson to the foul line, but he missed both free throws with 42.7 seconds left with the deficit 71-65.
Derek Reese's 3-pointer with 7:10 left regained the lead for the Vols at 54-53. But Kentucky answered with the next three points from Noel to retake the lead at 56-54. Reese deadlocked the game against with a pair of free throws with 6:27 left in the game.
Down by eight with 14 minutes left, the Vols reeled off eight points of their own to tie the game at 47, finished off on a jumper by McRae with 10:33 left in the game.
"In the last seven, eight years, I’ve coached teams that have absolutely womped on people … and this ain’t one of them," Kentucky coach John Calipari said after the game.
Kentucky used an 8-0 run early in the second half to break a 37 all tie and take a 45-37 lead on a 3-point play from Noel with 14:33 left in the second half. Golden ended the spurt with a jumper for the Vols
Kentucky led 34-31 at halftime as the Wildcats' Archie Goodwin scored the final four points of the half. McRae had 11 in the first half to lead the Vols and Wiltjer had 10 for UK.
The Vols shot 56 percent in the first half, but did not attempt a free throw.
Richardson's driving layup gave the Vols a 29-28 lead with 1:34 left. Golden's jumper regained the lead at 31-30.
The Wildcats used an 8-0 run to take a 25-19 lead on a fastbreak Goodwin layup with seven minutes left in the first half. Armani Moore's 3-pointer for the Vols ended the spurt, cutting it to 25-22.
Tennessee's first six baskets came from six different players before McRae knocked down his second bucket of the night to put the Vols ahead 15-12 with 12:28 left in the first half.
The Vols return home to host Mississippi State on Saturday at 4 p.m. That game will air on the SEC Network and can be heard on the Vol Network.
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