Takeaways from No. 23 Tennessee’s win over No. 17 Kentucky

With a win on Saturday night, Tennessee has now upset Kentucky in Thompson-Boling Arena three straight years. Here's what we learned about the Vols in their big win.

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No. 23 Tennessee upset No. 17 Kentucky 76-65 for the third consecutive year in Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday night.

Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams led the way on both ends of the floor to pick up Tennessee’s first SEC win of the season. It was a big win for the Vols, as they entered the game having lost back-to-back games for the first time all season.

The win not only snapped the Vols losing streak and got them back on track, but it also impressed a potential program-changing recruit. Here’s what we learned about Tennessee in its big win over Kentucky.

Admiral Schofield has his best game as a Tennessee Vol.

Schofield had the most efficient game he’s ever had in orange and white on Saturday, as he picked up his third career win over Kentucky on Saturday. The junior scored 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the floor while hauling in nine rebounds, assisting on four buckets, picking up four steals and recording one block.

In the first half, Schofield guided Tennessee with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting while the Vols were sputtering on offense. Schofield’s leadership and play allowed the Vols to stay in striking distance during the first half while Kentucky was in front..

“We are Tennessee,” Schofield said following the win. “Nobody respects us. We haven’t done anything, we haven’t won anything, and we haven’t been in the tournament in years. We have to just go out and compete every night, no matter if we are ranked or not because it’s just a number.”

To cap the night off, Schofield had a monster-slam to put the nail in Kentucky’s coffin with a few moments remaining in the game.

Grant Williams responds well.

Williams had just two points in the first half on 0-of-4 shooting. The sophomore forward looked out of it in the opening 20 minutes, struggling on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Then the flip switched, and Williams exploded for 16 second half points on 7-of-9 shooting to finish with 18 points. Williams added eight rebounds and tied his season-high in assists with four.

“We had a good two days of practice,” Williams said following the game. “So, we were excited to see how we competed and we feel like we did a good job tonight as a team.”

Tennessee fans need to thank former Vol great Ron Slay for Williams’ second half performance. I’m kidding, kind of.

As the Vols were wrapping up warmups before the second half began, Slay took to the court with a microphone to pump up the crowd. As Slay was walking off the court, he passed Williams and stopped on a dime once he realized who it was.  Slay then punched Williams in the chest and told him, “let’s go!”

It was a friendly, but fierce punch and it appeared to work, as Williams immediately scored four points to jumpstart his dominating second half performance.

“Williams was really good, but the rest of them were really good, too,” Calipari said. “They went after every ball.”

Tennessee is tougher than Kentucky.

After being outworked by Auburn, Tennessee outworked Kentucky. The Vols dominated the Cats for the majority of the game, specifically on the boards, as Tennessee won the rebounding battle 37-30. Barnes’ squad is just the third team to out-rebound Kentucky this season, but the +7 margin is the most by an opponent against the Cats.

“They out-toughed us,” Calipari said. “They just threw us around. It was embarrassing.”

Kentucky took a 47-44 lead with 14:07 remaining in the game, but Tennessee scored nine straight to go on a 16-3 run and get the Vols a 10-point lead with eight minutes remaining.

“They just got manhandled by men,” Calipari said of his team. “We couldn’t grab a rebound, got stuffed out of the way on post-ups.”

In the dominating second half, Tennessee outscored Kentucky 47-28 as it shut down the Cats big three. The Vols held Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Kentucky’s three leading scorers – to just 16 points on 5-of-21 shooting.

Anfernee Simons walks away impressed

Simons is without a doubt Tennessee’s top target of the 2018 class. Things could change due to attrition, but as of today, the Vols will only sign one player in the 2018 recruiting cycle. With the lone departure this upcoming offseason being James Daniel, the Vols will have one scholarship open and they’re hoping Simons is the one who’ll fill the open spot.

The five-star guard out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. left Knoxville impressed. According to Grant Ramey of GoVols247, the No. 9 overall player in the class expressed how great of an environment it was in Thompson-Boling Arena and that he could see himself playing for Barnes and the Vols.

Some have been disappointed with Barnes in terms of recruiting because he hasn’t been able to reel in the big-time recruits after signing guys like Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge while at Texas. It appears those critics could be laid to rest here soon.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

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