Cats blow 21-point lead, lose on the road to Volunteers


at the University of Kentucky vs. University of Missouri basketball game on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 in Louisville, KY. Photo by Cameron Sadler | Staff 

Anthony Crawford

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After the strong performance UK put on at Kansas, the Cats fell flat on Tuesday night at Tennessee as they fell to the Volunteers in Knoxville 84-77.

UK started the game looking like the same team that played over the weekend. The Cats jumped out to a 21-point lead with senior Alex Poythress carrying most of the offensive load.

The Tennessee-native started the game going 5-for-6 from the field and scoring 12 points in the first half. Poythress was able to score at all levels of the game, whether it was finishing at the rim or popping out for a mid-range jumper.

Unfortunately for the team, Poythress was forced to sit for the rest of the first half after picking up his second foul around the five-minute mark. UK scored just eight points in the half after that and Tennessee was able to close the gap with a 23-8 run.

Senior Kevin Punter led the Volunteers in its efforts to get back into the game. He added 12 points in the first half. Punter also went 5-for-5 from the free-throw line, but what was even more impressive was that Tennessee did not miss from the charity-stripe in the first half going a perfect 15-for-15.

Coming out of the locker room, UK was never quite able to pull away as the Volunteers were able to keep it close. Eventually at around the 16-minute mark, Tennessee went on a 7-0 run to take the lead.

From there the game went back and forth for a while with Tennessee being the aggressor. For every UK surge, the Volunteers had an answer and it helped that the shots were falling for them.

Tennessee was a combined 30-34 from the free-throw line and converted over forty percent of its three-point attempts going 8-19 from behind the arc.

Punter was as much a catalyst for the Volunteer offense in the second half as in the first with 15 points and two threes in the second half alone. He led all scorers with 27 points.

UK’s offense struggled heavily because foul-trouble once again plagued the Cats. Freshman Isaiah Briscoe and Poythress both sat for extended minutes after picking up its fourth fouls.

Poythress fouled out with 3:27 left to play, but was not nearly as effective in the second half only scoring two points.

Freshman Jamal Murray and his 16 second half points were the main reason UK was able to hang around at all. He hit a three-pointer with 31.0 seconds left to play and to cut the Tennessee lead to three, but UK’s hope dwindled when the Volunteers were able to convert both free-throws. 

This loss makes it two in a row for the Cats for the first time this season as they move to 16-6 overall and 6-3 in conference play. The Cats return home to take on the Florida Gators Saturday at 4p.m. in Rupp Arena.