Tennessee basketball: Three takeaways from Vols’ 107-79 loss at Kentucky

It won’t be three straight in Lexington, Ky., for Tennessee basketball. After upsetting the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena in both 2020 and 2021 and winning three of the previous four there, Rick Barnes’ dominance in John Calipari’s house finally came to an end in ugly fashion.

The Vols, ranked No. 22 in the AP Poll and No. 23 in the Coaches’ Poll, lost 107-79 to Kentucky Saturday afternoon. Ranked No. 18 in the AP Poll and No. 17 in the Coaches Poll, the Wildcats trailed 5-4 in the first two minutes, but a 10-0 run gave them a 14-5 lead, and they never relinquished that lead. They went into halftime up 52-38 and dominated the rest of the way.

With the win, UK improves to 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the SEC. They will next visit the Texas A&M Aggies Wednesday. UT falls to 11-5 and 2-3 in the SEC with a trip to the Vanderbilt Commodores set for this Tuesday. Here are three things we learned from Tennessee basketball’s loss.

1. Kentucky was red-hot shooting the ball.

In some ways, the Vols were always going to lose this game because of how amazingly great the Wildcats shot the ball. It was just one of those games were everything fell. UK shot 78 percent from the field at halftime and over 70 percent from three. They finished the game 11-of-18 from three, or 61.1 percent, and 38-of-56 overall, or 67.9 percent.

UK was 20-of-21 on the day, or 95.2 percent, from the free throw line, despite shooting under 74 percent from the year. TyTy Washington Jr.  was the star with 28 points, but Sahvir Wheeler added 21 points, and Kellen Grady was the star from three, going 4-of-7 en route to 16 points. Davion Mintz was 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and added 10 off the bench.

2. Turnovers created too many easy buckets.

Shooting as well as Kentucky did in this game meant they were likely always going to win. However, Tennessee basketball made it easier for them with turnovers. The Vols had 20 turnovers on the day, and it was spread out, as four of five starters had three. More importantly, though, Kentucky was able to cash in on those turnovers.

Calipari’s kids had 32 points off turnovers. Washington had three steals along with Oscar Tshiebwe, and Wheeler added two steals. Again, Kentucky’s shooting was verifiably unstoppable in this game, but the turnovers by the Vols is what made this a blowout.

3. At least the solid shooting returned.

Shooting 53.4 percent from the field and going 11-of-23 from three, or 47.8 percent, en route to 79 points would be more than enough many times to win a game many times. That’s the one encouraging sign for the Vols here. They finally shot the ball well again. Santiago Vescovi was 4-of-6 from three with 20 points, but Kennedy Chandler was 2-of-4 from three with 17 points.

Josiah-Jordan James continues to be solid from beyond the arc, going 3-of-6 with 11 points, and Justin Powell was 2-of-4 off the bench. Now, Tennessee basketball was 6-of-11 from the free throw line, so that issue remains a concern, but they lost this game specifically because Kentucky shot the ball well and they enabled their scoring. That was it.