Kentucky Downs Tennessee - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Kentucky Downs Tennessee

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - John Wall had 24 points - one short of his

career high - and Eric Bledsoe added 16 as No. 3 Kentucky fought

off No. 12 Tennessee for a 73-62 victory Saturday night.

Down 52-50 midway through the second half after a three-point

play by J.P. Prince, Kentucky (24-1, 9-1) scored the next 10 points

- six of them by Wall - to give John Calipari his first win over

Bruce Pearl in a Southeastern Conference matchup. The two met

annually when Calipari coached at Memphis.

Wall's career-high 25 points came earlier this season against

UConn.

Bledsoe, Kentucky's other freshman backcourt star, clinched the

victory with three clutch shots in a row: a fastbreak layup

followed by two 3-pointers.

Bobby Maze led the Vols (18-6, 6-4) with 15 points. Melvin Goins

had a career-high 14.

Although the Wildcats pulled away at the end, the two teams

battled for the lead most of the night. Kentucky kept the Vols in

it partly due to poor free throw shooting, particularly by DeMarcus

cousins, who connected on just one of eight attempts.

Cousins, who was going for an eighth consecutive double-double,

managed 12 rebounds but scored only five points. The Kentucky

record remains 10 straight, set by Jim Andrews in 1973.

Much of the focus going into the game was on the other big man,

Tennessee center Wayne Chism, whose right ankle was in a boot at

practice this week because of an injury he sustained in the Vols'

loss to Vanderbilt.

Chism didn't start but made an immediate impact when he entered

less than four minutes in. He nailed a 3-pointer on his first

touch, then added a reverse layup to ignite 12-1 Tennessee run.

While the Vols got their big man back, the Wildcats briefly lost

theirs during the Tennessee scoring stretch. Cousins, who had

barreled into the media table during a play underneath the basket,

was sidelined for 2 minutes with an apparent injury to his left

leg.

Cousins was healthy enough a few minutes later to turn in one of

the highlight plays of the game. After DeAndre Liggins missed a

long jumper, Prince seemed to have both hands on the ball for an

easy rebound. But Cousins robbed him in mid air, dunking it back

into the hoop to give the Wildcats their biggest early lead at

20-14.

Although Chism's ankle held up fine, he was sidelined with a

lower back bruise late in the first half after committing a hard

foul. He was back on the court for the start of the second half but

got only two of his 12 points after intermission.

Two free throws by Liggins put Kentucky up 30-29 at halftime.

Kentucky turned the ball over 15 times, but Calipari said

earlier this week that he could live with a number like that if the

team played aggressive defense. It did that, holding Tennessee

under 40 percent from the field.

Pearl's Tennessee teams have finished above Kentucky in the SEC

standings four straight years - the only program in conference

history to do that. However, Kentucky's win keeps them in sole

possession of first in the SEC East, one game ahead of Vanderbilt.

Even in a lackluster season for the Wildcats last year that

resulted in an NIT berth, the games against Tennessee provided

highlights. UK won both convincingly, including in Knoxville, where

former Wildcat Jodie Meeks set a single-game team record with 54

points. Meeks attended Saturday's game and was introduced to loud

cheers from the capacity crowd.

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