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Cats top Tennessee 75-65 behind Wiltjer, Noel

Kyle Wiltjer dropped 17 points to lead UK to a win over Tennessee Tuesday. (Clay Jackson photo)

Kyle Wiltjer dropped 17 points to lead UK to a win over Tennessee Tuesday. (Clay Jackson photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Kyle Wiltjer scored 17 points and Kentucky avoided back-to-back Southeastern Conference losses by beating Tennessee 75-65 on Tuesday night.

Nerlens Noel and Ryan Harrow each added 12 points and Alex Poythress 10 while Julius Mays contributed consecutive 3-pointers 1:48 apart late in the game to help the Wildcats (11-5, 2-1).

Jordan McRae’s 23 points led Tennessee (8-7), which lost its fourth straight and is 0-3 in the SEC for the first time in 15 years.

The game featured nine ties and 12 lead changes and Tennessee didn’t blink despite trailing twice by eight in the second half. Trailing 47-39, the Volunteers went on a 15-6 run for a 54-53 lead with 7:19 remaining.

Kentucky outscored Tennessee 11-4 over the next 3 minutes, with Mays dropping back-to-back 3-pointers for a 64-58 lead with 4:20 left. Wiltjer scored the next five points to give the Wildcats a 69-62 lead with 1:37 left.

Wiltjer finished in double figures after going scoreless in Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M. He was 6 of 10 from the field, including two 3-pointers, but it was his five points down the stretch that gave Kentucky some breathing room.

After recording 15 points, 11 rebounds, seven blocks, six assists and four steals against the Aggies, Noel followed up with nine rebounds, six blocks and four steals to help Kentucky win a seesaw game.

The Wildcats won it with 13-of-20 shooting in the second half (65 percent) to finish 49 percent (25 of 51) overall. Defensively, Kentucky held Tennessee to 11 of 29 shooting (38 percent) in the second half and 46 percent (25 of 54) overall.

Though the Volunteers didn’t get the jump on the Wildcats they hoped, they got an early edge in a back-and-forth game. McRae helped get Tennessee going inside and outside, lofting one shot over the 6-foot-10 Noel along with a layup while adding a couple of jumpers to provide a 19-17 lead.

That created some anxiety from the Rupp Arena crowd of 24,033, but Wiltjer’s shooting, especially from beyond the arc, helped Kentucky rally for the lead. That was significant after Saturday’s drought against Texas A&M and especially since he came out firing, hitting 4 of 6 from the field, including two from beyond the arc.

Wiltjer finished the first half with a team-high 10 points, including five during an 8-0 run for a 25-19 Kentucky lead. Tennessee answered to briefly lead twice more late in the half before Archie Goodwin scored the Wildcats’ final six points on four free throws and a floater for a 34-31 halftime lead.

McRae’s 11 points led the Volunteers, who shot 14 of 25 from the field in the first half.

Kentucky started the second half with an 11-6 run for its biggest lead at 45-37, but Tennessee’s 10-2 run, including McRae’s two baskets, tied the game.

Noel scored four of Kentucky’s next six points while contributing a couple of blocks ‚Äî including a swat of McRae’s attempted layup with 8:23 remaining that brought a yell from the 6-10 freshman and a cheer from the crowd.


TENNESSEE (8-7): Stokes 2-5 0-0 4, Hall 3-7 0-0 6, Richardson 3-7 0-2 6,  McBee 1-2 0-0 3, McRae 8-18 6-8 23, Makanjuola 1-1 0-0 2,  Reese 3-6 2-2 9, Moore 1-1 2-2 5, Golden 3-7 1-3 7, Edwards 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-54 11-17 65.

KENTUCKY (11-5): Noel 5-7 2-5 12, Cauley-Stein 3-5 1-3 7, Poythress 3-5 2-2 10,  Goodwin 2-10 4-6 8, Harrow 3-9 6-9 12, Polson 0-0 0-0 0,  Wiltjer 6-10 3-4 17, Mays 3-5 1-2 9. Totals 25-51 19-31 75.

Halftime_Kentucky 34-31. 3-Point Goals_Tennessee 4-12 (Moore 1-1,  McBee 1-2, Reese 1-2, McRae 1-4, Richardson 0-1, Hall 0-1, Golden 0-1),  Kentucky 6-15 (Poythress 2-2, Mays 2-3, Wiltjer 2-6, Goodwin 0-1, Harrow  0-3). Fouled Out_Goodwin, Makanjuola, Stokes. Rebounds_Tennessee 30  (Stokes 5), Kentucky 34 (Noel 9). Assists_Tennessee 11 (Golden 6),  Kentucky 13 (Harrow 4). Total Fouls_Tennessee 25, Kentucky 17. A_24,033.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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  1. Rodney

    There were some really good things that one can take from this game. The biggest thing is Kyle Wiltjer. This team has got to have Wiltjer’s offense because they are too limited when they don’t have him scoring, especiallly when Mays is in a slump as well. The problem is Wiltjer has at least got to not be a total liability on defense, which he was not tonight. Another good thing is he wasn’t just a spot up shooter. It becomes much easier for a scorer when he can do other things instead of just spot up and shoot the 3. Wiltjer went off the dribble tonight and posted up. He was a facilitator on offense and that is a good thing. I also like the fight this team showed tonight. They didn’t cower down. When Harrow took the elbow he barely flinched and actually gave a little shot back just to let him know he wouldn’t back down. I like that. Alex did ok, but I still think he should dominate everyone in the gym. But I guess small steps forward are ok, as long as they aren’t going backward. Archie made a couple of plays where he should have given up the ball. I think we can get more out of Archie and Alex. And I am afraid we are gonna have trouble trying to guard teams with good perimeter players. This team really misses a defensive stopper on the perimeter and I don’t know that they will ever have one. But they have to get better at guarding the drive. Nerlens is a man’s man. Without Nerlens this team would be in serious trouble. He is the heart and soul of this team and I think he is turning into the leader of this team. But he isn’t a skill guy, he is an effort guy. The majority of the offense has to come through our scorers, like tonight, and this team becomes much better. Mays and Wiltjer could have saved the season tonight with their shooting. We need more of that shooting in the coming days. Lets just hope we can build on this going forward.

  2. RJ

    A 10 point win at Rupp does not bode well for the game in Knoxville. To be on track for end of the season “dance”, KY needs to win these home games by 15 or more. There’s a lot of growing up to do for these players.


    Hey! I’ll take a bunch of ugly wins on the road by 1 or 2 points, just so we make the Big Dance and keep learning and cutting down on our errors. Those close and ugly wins can build a lot of confidence and bring this group together. It can make for a hell of a bench next year if certain players return–go Cats!

  4. Al

    Rodney said ” Archie made a couple of plays where he should have given up the ball”, that’s an understatement. Something that really bothers me is to see a player not pass the ball to an open teammate. Archie did that several times. He also drove into traffic and insisted on shooting anyway. One time he had 4 Tennessee players on him at the basket and still tried to shoot. Unless he starts playing team ball this team will continue to struggle with mediocre opponents. He’s not the only problem, but he’s too talented to be playing the way he is. Maybe Cal needs to get in his face similar to his outburst with Terrence Jones last year.

    1. Gene

      I have concluded that the problem with this yet to gel “team” may well be one Archie Goodwin.
      The kid is one he@# of a player who, were he to stay around for three or four years, could be a great player. He has all the tools! Unfortunately he also has the “me first” attitude. He believes that if the game situation says that UK needs a basket, he is the one to provide it. Not a totally bad attitude but there are times when there are others in better positions to get those points. Archie has yet to understand such to be the case.

  5. Juan4UK

    I love Kyle. I do! I don’t care (well, I do), that he is “off” a bit on defense. I choose to view Kyle as a 3-4 yr guy who just needs more time to mature as a young man physically and psychologically. In order to get a mean streak going with his defense.
    I know that Kyle is having issues with “a step slow” and all that. But people need to reset your clocks on these guys. Kyle should not be expected to develop at the pace of a one and done.
    Frustrating, I know, but think about what happens if all Kyle does in the off season is work on agility training. I think that may just be the ticket for him. Improved agility and defensive confidence. This should be Kenny Payne’s next project.

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