LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Call it "Forty Minutes of Swell."
Delivering its best all-around performance since the opening week of conference play, Kentucky avenged an earlier loss to Tennessee with an 83-58 shellacking of the Volunteers on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.
The No. 13 Wildcats (21-5, 11-2 SEC) returned to the form they displayed on a regular basis before hitting a rough patch in their season. Kentucky knocked down 11 3-pointers, dished out 17 assists with only seven turnovers, dominated the glass 43-35, and, perhaps most encouraging, held Tennessee to 34.6 percent from the field and a season-low point total.
"So today was... it's kind of growing up. It's being a man," UK head coach John Calipari said. "It's all the stuff that we got to teach. But this is only the beginning of what we started, what was it, 10 days ago?"
Kentucky has won three straight since its coach's so-called "reboot." The best example of what he's been preaching may have been personified by Malik Monk's 20-point, eight-rebound effort. The freshman guard had experienced a stretch of 95 minutes played without a rebound prior to UK's win Saturday at Alabama. He now has a new career high.
Said Monk: "Whatever it takes to win, man, is what I'm going to do. If coach wants more rebounds, I'm going to go get more rebounds."
The Cats also got 16 points from senior forward Derek Willis, who went 6-fot-10 from the field and knocked down four 3-pointers. De'Aaron Fox followed with 13 points and six assists, playing 32 minutes without a turnover. Isaiah Briscoe and Dominique Hawkins added 12 and 10 points, respectively, while Bam Adebayo pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds.
"We were really just gosh awful," UT head coach Rick Barnes said, "and I think from Kentucky’s vantage point, I think they probably got everything they wanted to get done."
Tennessee (14-12, 6-7 SEC) was led by Admiral Schofield with 17 points, but his 6-for-10 shooting night was the lone bright spot for the Vols. The rest of the team went 12-for-42 (29 percent) from the field.
In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the game...
WHAT WE LIKED:
As noted above, it was Kentucky's first dominant performance from opening tip to final horn since a 100-58 win over Texas A&M on Jan. 3 at Rupp Arena. Defending and taking care of the ball were the primary reasons, although one would be hard-pressed to find any aspect of this game that the Cats did not do well. It was also a nice test to see if UK had learned lessons from allowing big leads against LSU and Alabama to be trimmed late in the game. The Cats passed, allowing the Vols no signs of hope in the second half.
Derek Willis, Kentucky -- He was the Cats' second-leading scorer on the night, but his outburst of 3-point shooting in the first half set the tone for the entire night. Afterward, Barnes said the entire gameplan was set up around the Vols not allowing UK's 4 men -- Willis and Wenyen Gabriel -- to get on track offensively. The UT boss said Willis is the key to the rest of offense opening up for the Cats. On this night, that certainly appeared to be the case.
BY THE NUMBERS:
10 - Three-pointers in the first half by Kentucky, a season high.
17 - Points off turnovers for the Cats, who forced 13 UT miscues.
18-0 - Fast-break points advantage for UK.
20-2 - Kentucky's record this season when recording more assists than turnovers.
41 - Points for Willis in his last two games at Rupp Arena against the Vols.
92-16 - UK's all-time record against UT in games played in Lexington.
"I think it was the extra pass. It's not just ball movement, it's player movement, too... Then all of a sudden you saw pass, cut, cut, cut, pass cut, and all of a sudden it was like the dam burst. It's boom, here we come." -- UK head coach John Calipari on the difference in the Cats' halfcourt offense on Tuesday compared to recent weeks of SEC play.
Kentucky returns to action Saturday at Georgia in a 6 p.m. ET tipoff on ESPN. The Bulldogs (15-11, 6-7 SEC) beat Mississippi State on Tuesday night in Athens to give them a modest two-game win streak.