LEXINGTON, Ky. - Tennessee battled Kentucky even through the first 30 minutes before hitting a wall.
Wildcats freshman sensation John Wall heated up late, scoring 12 of his game-high 24 points during the final 10 1/2 minutes to lead No. 3-ranked Kentucky to a 73-62 victory over No. 12 Tennessee on Saturday night in Rupp Arena.
"I had to be more physical and start finishing better,'' Wall said. "They started giving me some lanes, so I took them.''
The Vols (18-6, 6-4 SEC) held a 52-50 lead at the 10:13 mark after J.P. Prince converted a three-point play, but Wall responded with a coast-to-coast drive that sparked a decisive 10-0 run for the Wildcats (24-1, 9-1).
"Wall was able to slice and dice whenever he really wanted to,'' Vols coach Bruce Pearl said. "He could get by his man, get in the lane and elevate.''
When it wasn't Wall, it was fellow UK freshman guard Eric Bledsoe scoring down the stretch. Bledsoe scored all 16 of his points in the second half and capped the key 10-0 spurt with a layup in transition that put the Wildcats up 60-52 at the 6:48 mark.
UT didn't get closer than four points the rest of the game.
"I was pleased with our effort, and we had good preparation,'' Pearl said. "I was disappointed in the last 10 minutes.''
Chism was held out of Thursday and Friday drills with a sprained ankle and didn't start. Pearl contemplated holding Chism out the second half after the Vols' center hurt his hip late in the first half.
Pearl said Hopson played at less than 100 percent, too, suffering flu-like symptoms Friday and running a fever.
Prince had nine points, eight rebounds and five assists before fouling out with 1:19 left.
"We got a lot of tough charge/block calls,'' said Prince, who was whistled for at least two charges. "They are so big, you have to take it to the rim strong. Those big guys get a lot of those cheap fouls and it adds up.
"They shot 30 free throws - that's a lot of free points.''
Kentucky was 18-of-30 from the line, while the Vols were 10-of-13.
UT's plan was to play zone with hopes of shutting down UK big men DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson. Cousins had his streak of double-doubles snapped at seven, finishing with five points and 12 rebounds, while Patterson had 10 points and seven rebounds.
"You pick your poison,'' Pearl said. "If I got a chance to get beat by Bledsoe from three (3-of-6 beyond the arc) versus Cousins-Patterson on the inside, that's the risk we took.''
Kentucky held a 30-29 lead after an evenly played first half that saw four lead changes and five ties.
The Wildcats sprinted out to a 6-0 lead, but Chism and Goins came off the bench to ignite a 12-1 Vols run.
Kentucky game back with a 13-2 run to go up 20-14 on a Cousins dunk at the 7:42 mark.
The Wildcats took their largest lead of the half a few minutes later when Wall struck for three of his nine first-half points on a trey from the corner that made it 24-16 at the 5:52 mark.
UT came back with a 10-2 run Maze capped with a trey that tied the game at 26-26 at the 2:45 mark.
The Vols return to action at 8 p.m. Wednesday against Georgia (11-12, 3-7) in Thompson-Boling Arena.