Ranked teams coming off impressive Southeastern Conference wins will meet on Saturday when No. 18 Kentucky hosts No. 22 Tennessee in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky (13-3, 3-1 SEC) never trailed in a 78-66 win Tuesday at Vanderbilt. Oscar Tshiebwe scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season for the Wildcats, who led by as many as 28 points.
But Kentucky coach John Calipari was critical of how his team ended the game. The Wildcats missed their final seven shots and were outscored 16-0 after taking a 78-50 lead with 6:14 left.
“We let go of the rope, and we’ve got to get better at that,” he said.
TyTy Washington added 15 points and Davion Mintz had nine in his first start of the season, as he filled in for Sahvir Wheeler, who was out with a neck injury he suffered at LSU on Jan. 4. Wheeler, who is third in the country with 7.3 assists per game to go along with 9.6 points, is a game-time decision against the Volunteers.
Tshiebwe is having a fantastic season, as his 15.1 rebounds per game lead Division I and he also leads the team in points (17.0) and blocks (1.4).
“How about the way the team is finding him and passing him the ball?” Calipari said. “They are throwing it and the biggest thing is a couple of games ago, he didn’t catch them. … Now he’s shooting jumpers and making free throws. I’m really happy to see how he has played.”
Washington averages 13.7 points, with Kellan Grady and Keion Brooks averaging 11.6 and 10.7 points, respectively.
Tennessee (11-4, 2-2) opened the second half on a 9-2 run to push its lead to 39-26 and never looked back en route to a 66-46 win over visiting South Carolina on Tuesday.
Josiah-Jordan James posted his second career double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, with Santiago Vescovi adding 14 points and John Fulkerson chipping in 10 and blocking two shots. Zakai Zeigler had 11 points, four steals and four assists as Tennessee rebounded from a 79-67 loss at then-No. 21 LSU on Jan. 8.
Still, coach Rick Barnes wasn’t pleased with the Vols’ performance offensively. Tennessee shot 43.6 percent from the field and just 40 percent (11 of 25) from the free-throw line.
“On offense, we wouldn’t struggle as much if we would just simply do what we practice,” Barnes said.
“You are going to struggle some nights offensively. I just want the guys that are open, when they are open, the guys whose jobs are to shoot it, I want them to shoot it. We have not told anybody not to do it. All we have said is take good rhythm shots.”
Vescovi averages a team-high 13.6 points per game, while Kennedy Chandler averages 13.4 points to go along with a team-high 5.1 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Olivier Nkamhoua and Fulkerson, who is eight points shy of scoring 1,000 for his career, average 9.3 and 9.0, respectively.
–Field Level Media
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