There were some warranted questions in Lexington after Elston Turner came into Rupp Arena and dropped 40 points on Kentucky in an 83-71 Texas A&M win Saturday.
Needing a bounce-back win it was the Kentucky backcourt, but not freshman Archie Goodwin, who gave the Wildcats a push late.
Transfer Julius Mays hit back-to-back three-pointers in the final five minutes of regulation to spark Kentucky late, on its way to a 75-65 win at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
After Mays’ threes extended the Kentucky lead to six points with 4:23 remaining, the Wildcats focused on the interior and sophomore Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer’s 10 first-half points buoyed Kentucky in the first half, but his five points in the final three minutes helped to seal it down the stretch.
Wiltjer finished with 17 points and five rebounds.
Nerlens Noel went without a point in the first half, but stepped up on both the offensive and defensive ends in the second half. His 12 second-half points on 5-of-7 overall shooting exploited a lack of size on the interior for Tennessee that struggled with Jarnell Stokes and Yemi Makanjuola in foul trouble.
Noel also blocked six shots and grabbed nine rebounds.
But, for the second game in a row, Kentucky showed that it has difficulties defensively slowing down an active wing scorer on the perimeter. It was Turner’s 40 on Saturday and, come Tuesday, Tennessee’s Jordan McRae.
McRae scored 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting and was Tennessee’s only go-to scoring option down the stretch when it needed points the most. His two free throws with 3:51 remaining pulled the Volunteers to within four points, 64-60, but that is as close as they would get in the final minutes.
Stokes, the Volunteers’ biggest asset on the interior against Kentucky freshmen Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, struggled through foul trouble.
He picked up his third foul with 18:41 remaining in the second half, forcing him to the bench. Upon his return, he picked up his fourth with 12:25 remaining. With the foul trouble, Stokes struggled to just four points on 2-of-5 shooting.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_