Bad news:As Tennessee’s most best player departs leave the team in tears…..

Bad news:As Tennessee’s most best player departs leave the team in tears…..

A little more than 24 hours before Kentucky’s top-10 battle with Tennessee on Saturday night, Adou Thiero looked ahead and outlined what he saw as a major key to the game.

“I think we’ve just gotta come out there and, basically, punch them in the face first,” he said. “Not let them get that first punch off. Show them, like, we’re here to fight. Because we know they’re going to fight back. But we’ve just got to show them: we’re going to do it first.”

Well, that didn’t happen.

No. 5 Tennessee beat No. 10 Kentucky 103-92 in Rupp Arena, an attack on the UK record books that tilted toward the Volunteers’ favor almost as soon as the ball was tipped.

This game was tied for all of 15 seconds before Zakai Zeigler’s 3-pointer rattled around the rim and fell through the net to give Tennessee a 3-0 lead. The Vols never trailed. And for most of the night, they never seemed to be in too much danger of it.

Tennessee scored the first eight points of the game. When Santiago Vescovi hit a 3-pointer to put the Vols up 13-3 with 16:36 left in the first half, John Calipari called a timeout, unable to wait another minute or so for the first TV stoppage of the night.

“We dug ourselves a hole to start off the game,” Thiero said afterward. “If we came out and kept it close at the beginning, then we probably would’ve been fine at the end of the game. But we dug ourselves a hole that we couldn’t get out of.”

Over the Volunteers’ first 10 possessions of the game, they scored 21 points and grabbed five offensive rebounds. They scored on eight of those 10 possessions. By that point, they led 21-10. And they made a habit of being ahead by double figures on this road trip to Rupp.

“We gotta be a little more sound defensively in what we’re doing. And we’re gonna have to be a collective defensive team,” Calipari said afterward. “And I keep saying it. And if one guy stops playing, it’s going to hurt this group. But when we do it together, we can hold our own.

“But you’ve gotta rebound. To start the game — c’mon. They had too many attempts. And just about each one of them, they scored a basket. That’s defense, too, by the way.”

Lexington, Kentucky (AP) Josiah-Jordan James and Zakai Zeigler each had 26 points, with James adding 17 after halftime, as No. 5 Tennessee defeated No. 10 Kentucky 103-92 on Saturday night.

Zeigler made all five field goal tries for 13 points before halftime, including three from long range, and the Volunteers (16-5, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) maintained their lead throughout.

James extended his lead in the second half with a pair of three-pointers sandwiched around another by Santiago Vescovi for a 57-47 edge that increased to 16 with 9:22 left.

“Our biggest mindset going into the game was making it a 40-minute fight, putting two halves together,” said James, who went 9 for 18 from the field and 4 or 9 from long range.

“You cannot do

Tennessee basketball’s 103-92 win over Kentucky on Saturday at Rupp Arena tied for the largest margin of victory for the Vols at the Wildcats’ building.

Tennessee beat Kentucky by 11 points twice before at Rupp: 82-71 on Feb. 6, 2021, and 66-55 on Jan. 20, 1979.

The Vols also are 6-2 against the Wildcats in AP Top 10 games since 1949-50.

Saturday was the first time the Vols scored 100 or more points at Rupp, with all five starters in double figures. Tennessee was led by Josiah-Jordan James and Zakai Zeigler, who had 26 points each.

Tennessee took an early 8-0 lead and never relinquished it.

UT coach Rick Barnes moves to 11-9 overall against Kentucky as the Vols’ coach, including 9-8 in the regular season.


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