KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Admiral Schofield had 20 points and nine rebounds Saturday night and No. 23 Tennessee rallied in the second half to beat No. 17 Kentucky 76-65 and end a two-game skid.
This marks the third consecutive season that Tennessee (10-4, 1-2 SEC) has beaten Kentucky (12-3, 2-1) in Knoxville. Kentucky entered the night leading the overall series 153-69, but no team has beaten the Wildcats as often as Tennessee.
The Volunteers had blown leads of at least nine points in each of its four losses this season – including its first two SEC games – while Kentucky had rallied from halftime deficits to beat Georgia and LSU in its first two SEC matchups.
This time, it was Tennessee staging the second-half comeback.
Grant Williams scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half as Tennessee erased an eight-point halftime deficit. Lamonte Turner added 11 points and five assists.
Quade Green scored 14 points to lead Kentucky. PJ Washington had 13 points and Wenyen Gabriel added 11 points, but both missed much of the second half. Washington limped to the locker room with about 12 1/2 minutes left and didn’t return, while Gabriel fouled out with just under 12 minutes remaining.
After Kentucky built a 37-29 halftime lead, former Tennessee star and SEC player of the year Ron Slay went onto the Thompson-Boling Arena court and delivered a pep talk to the sellout crowd. The Vols responded as soon as the second half began.
Williams tied the game at 39-all with 17:28 left and he then drew his third foul 11 seconds later when he was defending Gabriel and the two players collided. Tennessee argued the call, and technical fouls ended up being assessed to both Vols coach Rick Barnes and Kentucky coach John Calipari.
This marked the first time a Tennessee coach had picked up a technical foul since Bruce Pearl received one on March 11, 2011. A total of 216 games had elapsed since a Tennessee coach had been assessed a technical foul.
Williams put Tennessee ahead for good with 12:37 left as part of a 10-0 run that eventually gave the Vols a 54-47 lead with 11:12 remaining. Washington got injured and Gabriel fouled out during that spurt.
Both teams had been dealing with flu bugs this week.
Kentucky guard Hamidou Diallo and forwards Sacha Killeya-Jones and Nick Richards were feeling sick Wednesday in a 74-71 victory at LSU. Tennessee’s Jordan Bone also had the flu this week.
Diallo scored five points in 16 minutes before fouling out. Killeya-Jones had four points in 16 minutes and Richards had nine points in 24 minutes. Bone was Tennessee’s starting point guard but played just 9 minutes.
Kentucky: The Wildcats built their first-half lead by working the ball inside on offense and containing Williams on defense. They weren’t nearly as effective doing either of those things in the second half. After outscoring Tennessee 22-6 in the paint in the first half, Tennessee had a 24-10 edge in that category in the second half.
Tennessee: The Vols badly needed this victory to avoid falling to 0-3 in SEC competition with three of their next four games on the road. Barnes had criticized Tennessee for playing too casually in a 94-84 loss to Auburn on Tuesday, and the Vols’ second-half comeback was an impressive response.
Kentucky hosts No. 11 Texas A&M on Tuesday.
Tennessee is at Vanderbilt on Tuesday.