Knoxville, Tenn. — Admiral Schofield scored 20 points and recorded nine rebounds to lead the 23rd-ranked Tennessee Volunteers to a 76-65 victory over No. 17 Kentucky on Saturday night at a sold out Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Vols (10-4, 1-2 SEC) shot 54 percent from the field in the second half while using a strong defensive effort to outscore the Wildcats (12-3, 2-1 SEC) in the final period, 47-28, and earn their first conference victory of the season. Grant Williams stepped up offensively down the stretch, scoring 16 of his 18 points in the second half on 7-for-9 shooting.
UT was also fueled by great team play, as it recorded 23 assists on 25 total baskets, led by six assists from James Daniel III. After going into halftime trailing by nine, the Vols went on multiple runs in the second half, including a 10-0 burst that lasted more than three minutes, to reclaim the lead and defeat Kentucky for the third consecutive year at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee struggled offensively in the first half, as it made just eight shots from the floor and committed eight turnovers. Kentucky, meanwhile, was efficient throughout the period, shooting 55 percent from the field and 4-for-8 from behind the 3-point arc. PJ Washington knocked down his first four shots and finished the period with 11 points to lead the Wildcats to a 37-29 advantage at the intermission. Wenyen Gabriel added a spark off the bench, hitting three 3-pointers for nine points.
Schofield paced the Vols offensively at the break with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. The 29-point total tied for the fewest Tennessee has scored in a half this season (Dec. 20 vs. Furman). UT was able to keep the game in reach through solid defense that featured 14 rebounds and two blocks.
Tennessee stormed out of the gate in the second half, going on a quick 6-0 run highlighted by a Schofield breakaway dunk. The scoring outburst continued with a Lamonte Turner 3-pointer three minutes in that put the Vols ahead for the first time since the 16:00 mark of the first half. Turner finished with 11 points and five assists.
UT’s defensive intensity continued into the second half, as Kentucky did not make a 3-pointer for more than nine minutes and was held without a field goal for stretch exceeding five-minutes late in the game. The Wildcats were also held to a season-low 28 points in the second half and were forced into committing nine turnovers. Quade Green led Kentucky with 14 points on 5-for-14 shooting, while Nick Richards added nine points and eight boards.
Kentucky cut the Tennessee edge to seven with less than six minutes to play, but the Vols were able to use clutch free-throw shooting and timely turnovers to pull away down the stretch. A thunderous dunk by Schofield with 23 seconds left increased the lead to 11 and brought the sellout crowd of 21,678 to its feet.
UP NEXT: The Vols hit the road to face in-state rival Vanderbilt on Jan. 9 at Memorial Gymnasium before a matchup at home against Texas A&M on Jan. 13.
WILLIAMS DOMINATES SECOND HALF: Sophomore forward Grant Williams scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, making 7-of-9 field goals after scoring just two points and shooting 0-for-4 from the floor before the break. Williams finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and a season-high-tying four assists.
RARE T: Rick Barnes and Kentucky coach John Calipari each received a technical foul at the 17:17 mark in the second half, marking the first time a Tennessee head coach had been whistled for a technical foul in 216 games (March 11, 2011).
VOLS SHUT DOWN WILDCATS’ BIG THREE: Tennessee held Kentucky’s three leading scorers Kevin Knox (14.6 ppg) Hamidou Diallo (14.4 ppg) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (12.1 ppg) to just 16 total points on 5-of-21 shooting (24 percent) from the field. The trio entered the game averaging 41.0 points per game and shooting 46 percent overall.
BOARD WORK: The Vols out-rebounded the Wildcats, 37-30, marking just the third time an opponent has out-rebounded Kentucky this season. The +7 margin is the most by an opponent against the Wildcats this season (previous high was one).
SECOND-HALF MOMENTUM SHIFT: After a layup by Kentucky to give the Wildcats a 47-44 lead with 14:07 left in the game, Tennessee responded with nine consecutive points to regain the lead, part of a 16-3 run to give the Vols a 10-point lead with eight minutes remaining.
SHARING IS CARING: Finished off by a dish from James Daniel III to Admiral Schofield for a slam dunk in the final seconds of Saturday’s game, the Vols had a remarkable assist rate of 92 percent (23-of-25) on their field goals in the contest. UT entered the contest as the SEC’s assist leader and ranked 32nd in the nation.