On Sunday, Kentucky responded by ripping off a 24-5 run in the middle of the second half against Tennessee, effectively putting the game out of reach and blowing the doors off the Volunteers (14-6, 2-3 SEC) by 19 in Rupp Arena. The final was 76-57.
"Today was a must win," said senior forward Bobby Perry, "After losing two in a row against Vanderbilt and Georgia, we had to come out and play hard. We should have won the games against those teams last week, so today we had to step it up. We found a way to win today and that shows our team's confidence."
The Wildcats won the game with hot outside shooting, canning an impressive 11 three point field goals in 27 attempts. Freshman Jodie Meeks canned 4-5 from long range, scoring a total of 16 points, "I was really impressed with Jodie [Meeks]," said coach Tubby Smith, "He stepped up and made big shots for us."
"We're pretty dangerous (when we are hitting well from the outside)," said Jodie Meeks, "I think we are one of the most dangerous in the conference. If one person knocks down a shot, it builds the confidence of everyone on the team."
The Wildcats, who had strayed away from their trademark defensive effort for the past two games, held the Volunteers (who were playing without injured star guard Chris Lofton) to just 37.9% from the field. They also created five steals and blocked five shots against the Vols. "I do think it (defensive pressure) helped us a lot," said Meeks. "It gave us an opportunity to make plays and really control the pace of the game. It led to offensive breaks and increased our confidence on both ends of the floor."
One of the bright spots for Kentucky was the fact that the Cats were able to make their big run without much offensive productivity from center Randolph Morris, who was plagued with foul trouble, played only 19 minutes and scored just nine points. It was only the second game all year that the big fella failed to score double digits. "Our game plan was to get Randolph Morris in foul trouble because we knew with him it is a tremendous difference for Kentucky because now they have an inside-outside game," said Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, "We had to expend so much energy, just trying to keep his shots down.
The win could not have come at a better time, as the Cats must now go on the road to face the very tough, battle tested Arkansas Razorbacks on February 3. The Hogs have lost four of their last six games but boast recent wins over top 25 ranked Alabama (twice) and LSU, while playing Florida tough on the road before falling.