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No. 15 Kentucky avenges home loss to No. 4 Tennessee

Mar 9, 2024; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Dalton Knecht (3) goes to the basket against Kentucky Wildcats forward Ugonna Onyenso (33) during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Reeves and Reed Sheppard each scored 27 points Saturday as No. 15 Kentucky spoiled Senior Day for No. 4 Tennessee, building a 14-point second half lead and holding on for an 85-81 Southeastern Conference win in Knoxville.

Justin Edwards added 16 for the Wildcats (23-8, 13-5 SEC) and Rob Dillingham chipped in 11 points, including the clinching foul shot with five seconds left to snap Tennessee’s seven-game winning streak. The result enabled Kentucky, which has won five in a row, to avenge a 103-92 home loss to the Volunteers last month in Lexington.

Dalton Knecht starred in defeat for Tennessee (24-7, 14-4) with a game-high 40 points, canning six 3-pointers. Zakai Zeigler added 17 — including 14 in the second half – and nine assists, while Jonas Aidoo contributed 11 points and eight rebounds.

But the Volunteers couldn’t achieve the same type of balance they did in the teams’ first meeting. Josiah-Jordan James was held to eight points after ringing up 26 last month and Santiago Vescovi was held scoreless after hitting for double figures last month.

The big run came to start the second half, after Kentucky took a four-point lead at the half and expanded it to 60-46 just eight minutes in. Reeves and Sheppard did most of the damage during that stretch, combining for the first nine points and 21 of 27 in that span.

The margin was still at 11 with 55 seconds remaining when Tennessee tried one last push. It scored eight straight points and had a chance to tie it after the Wildcats were whistled for a 10-second violation but James’ 3-point attempt was off the mark.

Neither team could find the range during a defensive-minded first half that was a 180-degree turn from the teams’ first matchup. Kentucky led 4-3 at the first TV timeout nearly 4 1/2 minutes into the game and neither team got to 10 points until a Tobe Awaka foul shot for the Volunteers at the 13:02 mark.

But the Wildcats used a pair of 3-pointers from Reeves and one from Sheppard to rip off nine straight points that gave them the lead for the game’s remainder. They led 33-29 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

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