Washington helps No. 18 Kentucky rout No. 22 Tennessee

Jan 14, 2022, 10:25 PM | Updated: Jan 15, 2022, 3:08 pm

Kentucky guard TyTy Washington Jr. (3) celebrates scoring a three pointer during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)

(3)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Just winning would have been fitting enough to honor the passing of a Kentucky coaching great.

The No. 18 Wildcats took that objective a step further, doing it convincingly with near-perfect offense thanks to a defense that created plenty of easy chances.

Freshman TyTy Washington Jr. scored a career-high 28 points, Sahvir Wheeler returned from injury to add 21 points and Kentucky shot a season-high 68% to blow out No. 22 Tennessee 107-79 on Saturday.

The Wildcats (14-3, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) rolled the Volunteers on an emotional day that began with news of the death of former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall at 93.

Hall led the program to its fourth national championship in 1978. He was close with current Kentucky coach John Calipari, who paid tribute to his friend and mentor by gripping a rolled-up program and starting in a 1-3-1 defense against their border rivals.

Kentucky then unleashed its most energetic performance this season before its biggest crowd in a while, an effort helped by the return of point guard Wheeler from a neck injury. The Wildcats made their first five shots and 22 of 28 by halftime, with their 78.6% shooting tying a program record set in the first half against Mississippi on Jan. 14, 1981 (11 of 14).

“We wanted to win, and it’s a ranked opponent,” Calipari said. “I told them we got a ways to go but this was a step and look, I thought Tennessee played well offensively. They did some good stuff.

“But we were so good offensively, passing it, extra plays. They stretched out their defense and we’re a driving, shoot (a) floater kind of team. That’s what we are, and it kind of worked in our favor.”

Especially for Washington, who scored Kentucky’s first basket to jump start a 14-5 lead. He finished 10 of 13 from the field, including 2 of 4 from beyond the arc, topping his previous high of 20 points last matched against Western Kentucky on Dec. 22.

Kentucky teammates followed Washington’s lead, with all but one player shooting 50% or better from the field.

“We really just can’t rely on Oscar (Tshiebwe) all the time to try to carry us all the time in big games,” Washington said in reference to Kentucky’s top scorer and rebounder. “A lot of other guys, we’ve got to step up as a whole. We all pinpoint that, and I think that helped us today. We all stepped up and executed.”

Kentucky’s accuracy held up for nearly 30 minutes before cooling off slightly and finishing 38 of 56 from the field. Kentucky also went 20 for 21 from the foul line to end a two-game home slide against the Volunteers (11-5, 2-3).

Kentucky reached the century mark for the second time this season with 2:31 left and posted its highest output since scoring 107 against Illinois-Chicago on Nov. 26, 2017. It’s also the Wildcats’ most against an Associated Press Top 25 team since scoring 107 against Vanderbilt on Jan. 4, 1994.

Wheeler, who made 8 of 10 from the field, added, “If we play like this, we won’t be having too many more Ls.”

Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points and Kennedy Chandler 17 for Tennessee, which shot 53% but wasn’t close for the final 30 minutes. The Vols also committed 20 turnovers that Kentucky turned into 32 points.

“I didn’t think we started defensively the way we wanted with our scouting report,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. ” We were in the kind of game we thought we’d be in, and then we turned the ball over and they score quick points. You simply can’t give a team this good that many points off turnovers. They’re gonna shoot 80% if you let them get those runout dunks and those runouts where they were getting to the corner and gonna shoot it.”

Kellan Grady added 16 points and Davion Mintz 10 for the Wildcats, who made 11 of 18 from beyond the arc. Wheeler had eight assists, while Oscar Tshiebwe had 12 rebounds and nine points.

REMEMBERING JOE B.

A moment of silence was held for Hall in Rupp Arena before the game. Spectators applauded during a video tribute that included interviews with the coach before fading to black with the words “Joe B. Hall Forever a Wildcat.” Calipari said he’d keep a rolled-up program for Kentucky’s remaining games but had never used Hall’s 1-3-1 defense that he could recall until Saturday.

“I just didn’t want to give everybody the (idea) we’re going to do it and all of a sudden they come in and throw two dunks,” Calipari said. “I told the kids, if they throw it to the corner or middle, go man to man.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee would likely have won any other game shooting at such a high rate while knocking down 11 of 23 3-pointers. But it kept the Vols close only briefly because they couldn’t match Kentucky’s intensity, pace or accuracy.

Kentucky was whole again with Wheeler’s return, reclaiming its lightning-quick offensive tempo and defensive intensity. But even that couldn’t explain the Wildcats’ uncanny shooting that appeared as if they trying to honor the year of Hall’s NCAA title.

UP NEXT

Tennessee visits in-state rival Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.

Kentucky visits Texas A&M on Wednesday night in a meeting of the SEC’s top three teams.

___

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/College-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (15) runs the ball down the field for 67 yards...
Associated Press

Panthers defeat Saints 22-14 to snap 9-game losing streak

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Laviska Shenault caught a 67-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield, Marquis Haynes returned a fumble 44 yards for a touchdown and the Carolina Panthers defeated the New Orleans Saints 22-14 on Sunday to snap a nine-game losing streak. Mayfield threw for 170 yards and Christian McCaffrey ran for 108 as the […]
14 hours ago
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) celebrates with Robert Woods (2) after Tannehill r...
Associated Press

Titans never trail in keeping Raiders winless with 24-22 win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ryan Tannehill threw for 264 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and the Tennessee Titans never trailed Sunday, holding off the Las Vegas Raiders 24-22 for their first victory this season. Derrick Henry also ran for 85 yards and a touchdown. Henry also added 58 yards more receiving […]
14 hours ago
Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith, right, is tackled by Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills ...
Associated Press

Smith INT sets up game-ending FG as Bears beat Texans 23-20

CHICAGO (AP) — Roquan Smith set up Cairo Santos’ game-ending field goal when he intercepted Davis Mills deep in Houston territory, and the Chicago Bears beat former coach Lovie Smith and the Texans 23-20 on Sunday. Khalil Herbert ran for a career-high 157 yards and two touchdowns for Chicago. The Texans had third-and-1 at their […]
14 hours ago
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) makes a catch against Washington Commanders cor...
Associated Press

DeVonta for the victory: Smith stars as Eagles stay unbeaten

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — DeVonta Smith caught eight passes from Jalen Hurts for a career-high 169 yards and a touchdown, Carson Wentz flopped in his first game against the team that drafted him and the Philadelphia Eagles routed the Washington Commanders 24-8 Sunday to remain unbeaten. Smith made acrobatic catches along the sideline and to […]
14 hours ago
FILE - Rihanna attends an event for her lingerie line Savage X Fenty at the Westin Bonaventure Hote...
Associated Press

Rihanna to headline the next Super Bowl halftime show

NEW YORK (AP) — Rihanna will take center stage at February’s Super Bowl halftime show. The singer, who declined to perform in the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show out of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, will headline the 2023 Super Bowl, the NFL announced Sunday along with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Apple Music. Rihanna posted an […]
14 hours ago
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throws during the second half of an NFL football ga...
Associated Press

Justin Herbert starts for Chargers despite rib injury

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Quarterback Justin Herbert started for the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars after being questionable all week due to a rib injury. Herbert fractured rib cartilage on a hard hit from Kansas City defensive lineman Michael Danna during the fourth quarter of a game Sept. 15. He has […]
14 hours ago
Washington helps No. 18 Kentucky rout No. 22 Tennessee