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Kentucky upsets No. 5 Tennessee in Knoxville, 63-56

Cats get back in the win column in dramatic fashion
CJ Fredrick, Zakai Zeigler
Posted at 2:28 PM, Jan 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-14 14:47:16-05

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Victory, Kentucky.

If you wanted a show, there was no better one in town than Kentucky vs. Tennessee Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats traveled to Knoxville as double-digit underdogs, having lost three of their last five games, and upset the No. 5 team in the country in thrilling fashion. Kentucky came out on top, 63-56.

Oscar Tshiebwe finished with a double-double: 15 points and 13 rebounds for the big man against the Volunteers. Antonio Reeves led the way for the Cats, adding 18 points, while CJ Fredrick put 13 on the board.

Tennessee's starting senior forward, Uros Plavsic, led all scorers with 19 points (9-11 from the field and 1-2 from the free throw line).

Kentucky shot 35 percent from the floor throughout the game, but the Cats were absolutely clutch on the charity stripe. UK finished 22-25 from the free-throw line for 88 percent. Comparatively, the Vols took just 10 free throws, connecting on seven of them.

The Cats were without Sahvir Wheeler (left shoulder) and Daimion Collins (left foot) for the duration of the game, and freshman Cason Wallace missed much of the first half. Wallace was forced to leave Kentucky's last game due to back spasms and spent parts of the first half Saturday in the tunnels with Kentucky strength and conditioning coach, Brady Welsh.

With a shortage of point guards, especially in the first 20 minutes, freshman Adou Thiero earned significant playing time. He finished with four points but brought an energy the Cats desperately needed. The entire team, in fact, should be credited with such. Their energy - on the court and on the bench - helped propel the Cats to victory even in a rowdy Thompson-Boling Arena that's given Kentucky trouble in the past.

Kentucky fell back into old habits in the opening minutes of play, starting the game with back-to-back turnovers and an early 8-0 deficit. But unlike prior matchups, the Wildcats didn't wilt. They responded with an 8-0 run of their own to even the score, largely on the shoulders of Fredrick. He finished the first half with 10 points, including two 3-pointers.

The Cats took their first lead of the game - their first lead in three games, to be exact - with 11:46 to play in the first half. They maintained that lead until more than ten minutes into the second half, when the Vols got back on top to the tune of a 43-41 advantage.

The battle continued throughout the second half, and physical doesn't feel like a strong-enough word to describe the feel of this game. 42 fouls were called throughout the game, 18 on the Cats.

According to the game broadcast, with four minutes to play in the first half it had been a one-possession game for more than nine minutes.

The final minutes stayed close, but Kentucky held onto the lead and made free throws down the stretch.

Tennessee came into the game ranked second in the nation in rebounding margin, but the Wildcats finished the game with a 43-23 advantage, including 13-4 edge on the offensive boards.

The momentum was much-needed for the Wildcats and Big Blue Nation. The Cats are now 11-6 on the season and 2-3 in the conference, and the win is their first quadrant one win over the season.

Onto the next: a home game against Georgia back home inside Rupp Arena Tuesday night. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. on ESPN.

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