Tennessee comes up clutch down stretch to beat Kentucky

Jerry Tipton, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

Kentucky's lack of low-post superiority was not for lack of trying. UK went to Nick Richards in the post twice in the first 90 seconds. Later, Jarred Vanderbilt got a chance to post up.

But UK had no points from the paint until Vanderbilt dunked a lob with 5:13 left.

An exceedingly rare sight came about three minutes later. Richards blocked Williams' shot. That ignited a fast break that Green finished with a layup with 2:19 left. That marked UK's first fast-break points since the West Virginia game on Jan. 27.

Cheers filled Rupp Arena as Kentucky matched its six first-half baskets at Missouri on Saturday. Tennessee called timeout.

The Vols had to feel fairly good with a halftime lead despite Williams making only one shot and scoring six points.

Neither team took charge in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Green's driving layup put UK ahead 37-35 with 14:04 left. That excited the crowd. His free throw gave the Cats a 38-35 lead at the second television timeout of the half. That matched the largest lead either team had held to that point.

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With Gilgeous-Alexander showing how many variations a driving layup can have, Kentucky inched ahead. His Euro step put the Cats ahead, 42-39. His underhand flip tied it at 44. His old-school driving dunk tied it at 46.

But Tennessee did not wilt. Williams' two free throws with 4:54 left put the Vols ahead, 50-46. That marked the largest lead yet in a game that made a double-digit cushion unthinkable.

The stage was set for the final dramatics.

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