LEXINGTON, Ky. — Despite a dominant performance from Jarnell Stokes, the Tennessee men’s basketball team struggled to get its junior forward much help — especially from the perimeter — and lost to No. 13 Kentucky 74-66 at Rupp Arena on Saturday.
Stokes, who finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds, had a double-double by halftime as he and Kentucky star freshman forward Julius Randle (18 points) went back and forth, carrying their teams. Stokes, despite picking up his second and third fouls early in the second half, churned on while Randle cooled. But it was Kentucky freshman guard Andrew Harrison who stole the show. He scored a career-high 26 points.
The biggest difference maker was the deep ball. The Wildcats (13-4, 3-1), a team that entered the game shooting 30.5 percent from 3-point range (second to last in the SEC), made seven of 16 3-pointers. UT (11-6, 2-2) made two of 13.
That alone overshadowed UT’s dominance on the glass (UT outrebounded UK 39-24) and in the paint (UT outscored UK near the basket 38-26).
The Vols jumped out to an early lead and led by as much as nine with 12:16 to play in the first half. But their hard work was negated as halftime neared. While UT made three of its last 10 shots of the half, Kentucky — fueled by Randle — snapped off a 10-2 run that captured its first lead of the game when UK freshman forward James Young hit a 3-pointer with 54 seconds to play. UT missed its next three shots and failed to break the 34-32 score before the buzzer.
The Vols briefly reclaimed the lead early in the second. They led 39-37 with 17:39 to play when Jordan McRae (17 points on 5 of 14 shooting) finished an and-one. But Kentucky tied the game with a Dakari Johnson jumper and never looked back, outscoring the Vols 40-34 in the second half.
The Wildcats protected their lead late with a stretch of 17 made free throws. After starting the game shooting 12 of 14 from the stripe, the Vols finished 16 of 23.
Ben Frederickson covers UT men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/Ben_Fred