Seniors Hayes, Carrier power UK to win

Seniors Chuck Hayes and Josh Carrier saved their best for last as the Cats received a career-high nine points from Carrier in his final home game, and Hayes scored all 13 of his points in the 2nd half to lead Kentucky (23-3, 14-1) to a 73-61 win over the Tennessee Volunteers (12-16, 5-10) on Senior Night at Rupp Arena.

The storybook happy ending appeared in jeopardy for much of the game, as Kentucky could not shake Tennessee, and the game was tied at 55-all with just over five minutes to play. Hayes played only the first six minutes of the first half, picking up his 2nd foul with over 13 minutes to go in the half and was relegated to the bench without a point the rest of the half.

But neither Hayes nor Carrier would allow the story to be written without authoring the outcome. Carrier played 13 minutes in the first half and contributed two key 3-point buckets to help the Cats to a 5-point halftime lead. He finished with nine points on 3-5 shooting, all from behind the arc.

With the game tied at 55, Hayes initiated a 16-2 UK run with an old-fashioned 3-point play, picking up the 5th foul on Tennessee forward Major Wingate in the process and giving UK a 58-55 lead with 5:18 to play. Tennessee would not score again until the clock went under two minutes to play. Hayes scored nine points in the run, and contributed a rebound, a steal, and an assist for good measure as the Cats stretched the lead to 71-57 with one minute to play before emptying the bench.

Patrick Sparks led Kentucky with 14 points, all in the first half, including 4-5 shooting from 3-point range. Hayes added 13 points on 5-6 shooting, 3-3 from the free throw line. He also had four rebounds. Kelenna Azubuike finished in double figures with 10, Carrier and Randolph Morris had nine each, and Rajan Rondo chipped in seven. Morris also had seven rebounds to lead the Cats.

Coach Tubby Smith credited bench play for the victory. "Trying to wear down our opponents with our bench ia a big key to our game," Smith said. "It keeps our guys fresh at the end of the game and allowed that big push at the end." No Wildcat played more than 28 minutes in the game.

Freshman Chris Lofton led the Volunteers and all scorers with 19 points on 7-17 shooting, 5-13 from the arc. Lofton also contributed five rebounds.

The Cats shot 55.3% from the field, and moved their record under Coach Tubby Smith to 91-1 when eclipsing the 50% mark. Kentucky finishes the regular season at Florida on Sunday afternoon, needing one win for win # 1900 for the program.

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