UK rallies past Vols, 73-62

Tennessee knew it might be done in by a Kentucky freshman Saturday night in Lexington. The Vols just didn't think it would be Eric Bledsoe.

Bledsoe - routinely overshadowed by heralded classmates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins - scored 10 consecutive Wildcat points during a late 20-4 explosion that produced a 73-62 Big Blue victory at Rupp Arena.

A three-point play by J.P. Prince gave Tennessee a 52-50 lead with 10:13 to go. That's when Kentucky launched its climactic rally, opened by a drive and two free throws by Wall. After a steal and drive by DeAndre Liggins, Bledsoe simply took over the game.

The freshman guard scored on a breakaway to give Kentucky a 60-52 lead with 6:52 remaining. After two buckets by Tennessee narrowed the gap to 60-56, Bledsoe hit a couple of clutch 3-pointers - the first from the right corner, the second from the left corner - as the lead swelled to 66-56 with 4:57 to go.

Bledsoe added a pair of free throws with 4:22 remaining to complete his 10-point run for UK, then Wall scored on an inbounds play as the Cats took their biggest lead of the game, 70-56, with 2:43 left.

"Bledsoe made some shots against the zone," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game show. "We don't play a lot of zone. While the zone was in front our bench (in the first half) we could kind of put the pieces in the right place. When they started running Bledsoe on the baseline (in the final minutes) our guys didn't communicate very well and he got free for some shots in the corners. That was a big factor for us."

Wall finished with 24 points to pace third-ranked Kentucky, now 24-1 overall and 9-1 in SEC play. Bledsoe chipped in 16, all in the second half. Patrick Patterson added 10 but made just 3 of 9 shots.

Point guards Bobby Maze (15) and Melvin Goins (14) led the scoring for 12th-ranked Tennessee, now 18-6 and 6-4. Wayne Chism, slowed by a sore ankle, added 12 points and native Kentuckian Scotty Hopson 10. J.P. Prince had an eventful night, finishing with 9 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, a block and 6 turnovers.

"We got great point-guard play - at least offensively - from Bobby and Melvin," Pearl said. "They put up some good numbers and made some tough shots.... And I thought Wayne played heroically in the sense that he was hurt. Wayne played 30 minutes on a very, very bad ankle and did the very, very best he could."

Kentucky shot just 35.7 percent (10 of 28) from the field and 22.2 percent (2 of 9) from 3 in the first half against a surprisingly effective Tennessee 3-2 zone. The Wildcats warmed up after intermission, however, hitting 53.8 percent (14 of 26) from the field and 50 percent (5 of 10) from beyond the arc.

Pearl thought the difference in UK's second-half shooting was that head coach John Calipari "had the offense in front of his bench and I had the defense away from my bench."

Tennessee shot just 38.3 percent (23 of 60) from the field and 26.1 percent (6 of 23) from 3. The Wildcats lead the NCAA in rebound margin at plus 10.2 per game but managed a mere 33-31 edge vs. Tennessee.

The Vols, notoriously slow starters, trailed 6-0 early but used a 12-1 burst to go up 12-7. Kentucky used a 17-4 spurt to go up 24-16 but Tennessee answered with a 10-2 spurt that tied the score at 26-all.

Kentucky led 30-29 at the half but could not shake the pesky Vols until Bledsoe's back-to-back 3-pointers widened the gap to 10 points with 4:57 left.

"I thought the kids battled tonight," Pearl said. "I was impressed with their effort. They competed, and we obviously came up short. But I'm not into moral victories and I'm not into close games."


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