Kentucky was so eager to chase history this week that it left two days early for its date with rival Tennessee.
After heading out Sunday for a Tuesday night game, exiting ahead of a snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow on Lexington, Kentucky was successful in its bid to break the school record for the best start to a season. The top-ranked Wildcats improved to 26-0 with a 66-48 Southeastern Conference win over the Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“We gotta come in like they’re trying to kill us,” Kentucky junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein said. “The whole country wants us to lose.”
Leading just 48-44 with 9:09 left, Kentucky (26-0, 13-0 SEC) amped up its defensive pressure and outscored Tennessee 18-4 the rest of the way. The Volunteers (14-11, 6-7) made only two of 11 shots down the stretch while committing three turnovers.
After shooting 52 percent in the first half, Tennessee hit just 25 percent in the second half (8 of 32).
The key moment was a four-point play with 6:54 remaining that put Kentucky up 56-44. Freshman guard Tyler Ulis hit one free and missed the second, but freshman Karl-Anthony Towns rebounded, scored and was fouled. The made free throw gave the Wildcats four points with no time leaving the clock.
The put-back was Towns’ first field-goal attempt of the game.
Kentucky’s biggest lead was 18 points — the final 66-48 tally.