Kentucky vs #19 Tennessee Road to March Madness

Kentucky vs #19 Tennessee Road to March Madness | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Written by on February 19, 2021

What would an NCAA Tournament be like without Kentucky in it? We likely will find out in a few weeks unless the Wildcats win the SEC Tournament. They will be sizable NCAAB underdogs on Saturday in conference play at No. 19 Tennessee.

How to Bet Kentucky at Tennessee NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info

Last Meeting

On Feb. 6, the Vols were 82-71 winners at Kentucky. Keon Johnson scored 17 of his career-high 27 points after halftime, while Jaden Springer added 23 points. Trailing 58-48 with 12 minutes remaining, the Volunteers scored 12 straight points for the lead thanks to the freshmen. The lead traded hands twice more before they helped Tennessee take control with another 12-0 run for a 74-64 advantage and went on to its second consecutive victory at Rupp Arena and sixth in nine games against Kentucky. The Vols owned the paint 44-30.

Why Bet on Kentucky? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

It’s stunning to see the Wildcats at 7-13 overall and they already have ruled out five-star freshman Terrence Clarke for the rest of the season. Clarke was a top-10 recruit who hasn’t played since Dec. 26 for the Wildcats due to injury. Clarke was one of two five-star signees in Kentucky’s No. 1-ranked 2020 recruiting class and the second-highest ranked behind only BJ Boston. Clarke was averaging 10.7 points this season.

The Wildcats did win their second in a row on Wednesday, 82-78 at Vanderbilt. Kentucky scored the first 10 points and never trailed. Boston hit a 3-pointer and then took a steal coast-to-coast for a dunk 17 seconds later to spark a 15-3 run that made it 25-8 midway through the first half. Vandy did rally all the way back and tie the game early in the second half. But instead of letting the Commodores go ahead and take the lead, the Cats fought back and eventually won.

“Winning and playing like we did in the first half, where we should have been up 15, 16 and then they make a run and we don’t fold, we don’t fold,” Coach John Calipari said. “We just keep fighting and we push it back to seven. That is big for this team. Big.”

Davion Mintz had 18 points, Jacob Toppin scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, Isaiah Jackson had 15 points and nine rebounds, Boston Jr. added 12 points and three steals and Olivier Sarr had 10 points and four blocks for Kentucky. Although he scored just two points, Keion Brooks Jr. played an outstanding floor game with nine rebounds, plus career highs with five assists and four blocked shots.

For the second game in a row, UK tied its season high of 82 points. The Wildcats have scored at least 80 points in three straight games after doing so just once in the previous 17. With eight 3-pointers made on Wednesday, UK has made 33 long balls over the last three games. That ties the best three-game stretch of the Calipari era.

UK has won its last two games by four and two points, improving its record this season to 4-6 in games decided by one or two possessions. It’s only the second time this season the Cats have won back-to-back games. They won three in a row in early January.

Why Bet on Tennessee? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Vols (15-5) had little trouble beating South Carolina 93-73 on Wednesday. The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but what turned out to be a false positive COVID-19 test for a Tennessee player led to a one-day postponement. The Vols shot it well the entire game, finishing 32-of-59 (54 percent) while dishing out 26 assists. Tennessee also scored 25 points off 18 Gamecock turnovers in the game.

Tennessee junior guard Victor Bailey Jr. had 29 points to lead the way. Bailey finished the night 9-of-16 from the field and 7-of-10 from 3-point range. His seven treys tied for the most by a Volunteer during the Rick Barnes era. Lamonte Turner (2016-20) also drained seven from long range against Presbyterian on Dec. 16, 2016. Bailey also tallied a career-high-tying four assists with no turnovers, one block and a steal as the Vols improved to 8-5 in the SEC. Bailey had struggled in recent weeks after a strong start to the season.

“Sometimes when a player stops thinking about making shots and just plays, the shots go down,” Barnes said. “All we ask him to do, like anyone else, is to ‘Do what you do and trust each other. Play to your strength.'”

Tennessee forward John Fulkerson was all over the stat sheet, totaling a season-high 19 points, six rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals. Freshman Jaden Springer put together another consistent performance, scoring 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting and a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line. Springer also logged five assists and three rebounds. Senior Yves Pons was the fourth Vol to score in double-figures, totaling 10 points, a game-high nine rebounds, a pair of steals and a block.

Josiah-Jordan James did not play with a left wrist injury but it’s not thought to be serious. “He’s okay – we think he’ll be back Saturday and we’ll know more soon, but we think he will be,” Barnes said.

This is scheduled to be Tennessee’s final home game of the season.

Expert College Basketball Prediction

Tennessee 70, Kentucky 63


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