Kentucky basketball’s win over Tennessee marked first two-game sweep in over 10 years


Brady Saylor

Kentucky Wildcats guard Cason Wallace (22) brings the ball up court during the Kentucky vs. No. 10 Tennessee mens basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 66-54. Photo by Brady Saylor | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky mens basketball defeated No. 10 Tennessee 66-54 on Saturday, marking the first two-game regular season sweep since the 2011-12 season.

The wins were pivotal to the 2022-23 Wildcats, who were fighting to remain in the field of 68 as the season drew to a close. In fact, as the final buzzer sounded in Lexington, Kentucky had won just three quadrant-1 games, two of which were over Tennessee.

Kentucky was led by Antonio Reeves in the first matchup, taking place on Jan. 14, who recorded 18 points, though Oscar Tshiebwe and CJ Fredrick followed close behind with 15 and 13 respectively.

Game two was a slightly different tale, with the Cats leading by as many as 20 points en route to victory, being co-led by Tshiebwe and Cason Wallace, who recorded 16 each. Jacob Toppin and Chris Livingston also finished with double-digit point totals, recording 11 and 12 respectively, with the latter recording his first double-double of his collegiate career.

Kentucky Wildcats guard TyTy Washington Jr. (3) looks fro an open teammate during the UK vs. Tennessee mens basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee. UK lost 76-63. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Just one year prior Kentucky throttled the Vols in Lexington, winning 107-79 on the back of a 28-point performance by freshman TyTy Washington Jr. Sahvir Wheeler also had a strong showing, recording 21 points.

Unfortunately for UK, it was punched in the mouth in Knoxville just one month later, being defeated 76-63 with no Cats recording more than 13 points.

Kentucky finished the 2020-21 season with a 9-16 record, missing the NCAA Tournament entirely, though it still managed to split the series against UT.

The Vols struck first in Lexington, winning 82-71 despite a 23-point performance from Keion Brooks Jr.

Kentucky would get revenge in Knoxville on Feb. 20, winning 70-55 after current Indiana Pacer Isaiah Jackson notched 16 points for the Cats.

Going back further, Kentucky did manage to play the Vols twice in the 2019-20 season before it was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, winning the first matchup in Knoxville 77-64 and losing at home 81-73.

In the Knoxville win four of Kentucky’s five starters recorded double-digit point totals with Immanuel Quickley finishing as co-leading scorer of the game with 18 points.

The Cats jumped ahead in the rematch at home, leading by as many as 17 points, before UT’s John Fulkerson powered back with a 27-point performance to lead the Vols to victory.

Looking at the 2018-19 season, Kentucky recorded a massive 86-69 win over then No. 1 Tennessee in Lexington on Feb. 16 before losing the rematch in Knoxville 71-52.

Kentucky was led in the win in Lexington by PJ Washington, who recorded 23 points, and Keldon Johnson, who scored 19.

Washington would lead the Cats again in the return game, but unfortunately for the Cats, he was only able to notch 13 points.

Going back one year further, Kentucky was swept in the regular season by Tennessee in the 2017-18 season, finishing the year 1-2 against the Vols after winning the SEC Championship.

Kentucky wouldn’t have any scorer record more than 15 points in either of the regular season games, losing 76-65 in Knoxville and 61-59 in Lexington, before Shai Gilgeous-Alexander erupted for 29 points to secure the conference title on March 11.

The Cats recorded another split series in the 2016-17 season, losing in Knoxville 82-80 and winning in Lexington 83-58.

Malik Monk led the Cats both times, recording 25 points in the loss and 20 in the victory.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Malik Monk throws a pass against the Tennessee Volunteers at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY on Tuesday, February 14, 2017. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 83-58.

This pattern continued in the 2015-16 season, with the Cats losing 84-77 in Knoxville and winning 80-70 in Lexington.

Similar to Monk one year later, Jamal Murray led the Wildcats in both games, recording a respectable 21 points in the loss and one-upping himself with 28 in the win.

The Wildcats finished their miraculous 2014-15 season undefeated against the Vols, winning the pair’s only matchup on Feb. 17 in Knoxville, being led to a 66-48 victory by Devin Booker’s 18 points.

The win was part of UK’s undefeated regular season that ended with a heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin in the final four.

It was a similar story in the 2013-14 season, with Kentucky defeating the Vols 74-66 in the lone matchup against Tennessee, being led by Andrew Harrison’s 26 points, before falling in the National Championship game against UConn.

Kentucky did play the Vols twice in the 2012-13 season, winning 75-65 in Lexington and losing 88-58 in Knoxville.

Kentucky was led by eventual Gonzaga transfer Kyle Wiltjer, who dropped 17 in Lexington and 18 in Knoxville, in both games.

Finally, going back to the 2011-12 season, Kentucky swept the Vols after eventual No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Anthony Davis dropped 18 points in both games.

That season would be a good one for Kentucky, with the Wildcats eventually going on to beat Kansas 67-59 in what would be the first and currently only national championship of the John Calipari era.

With the Wildcats fighting for seeding in both the NCAA and SEC tournaments, it’s possible the Vols and Cats could face off again this season, but regardless, the win marked the first undefeated regular season with two matches for Kentucky in over a decade.

Kentucky mens basketball is set to return to action on Wednesday, Feb. 22, when it travels to Gainesville, Florida, to face off against the Florida Gators. Tip off against Florida is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST and will air live on ESPN.