Faced with a 22-point second-half deficit on Thursday night at Rupp Arena, Tennessee failed to conjure up the magic it used to climb out of a 21-point hole against Kentucky earlier this month.
The Volunteers (12-14, 5-8 SEC) lost, 80-70, and now need to win out to finish above .500 in SEC regular season play. Meanwhile, the Wildcats (20-6, 10-3 SEC) have won four straight and are looking like legitimate national title contenders.
MVP: Derek Willis. The junior hit a career-high seven 3-pointers as part of a 25-point, five-assist game. His efficiency (8-for-12 from the field) helped Kentucky stave off a Tennessee comeback.
Starting lineup: Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis and Marcus Lee
Off the bench: Skal Labissiere, Isaac Humphries and Charles Matthews
Cleaning up the glass: Kentucky led, 36-30, at halftime after Willis hit a buzzer-beating putback … Murray finished with 28 points on 8-for-12 shooting. He added nine rebounds and two assists … Ulis nearly earned a double-double, putting in 11 points while dishing nine assists. He shot just 3-for-15 from the field … Marcus Lee left the game with a lower back injury and did not return.
Previous game: Wildcats blow out South Carolina without Calipari
What’s next: Sat., Feb. 20 at Texas A&M (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)