LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Tennessee once again battled hard at Rupp Arena, but for the eighth year in a row, the Vols suffered a loss on Kentucky's home floor. On Saturday, Tennessee lost to the 13th-ranked Wildcats, 74-66, before 24,246.
The Vols (11-6, 2-2 SEC) led for nearly the entire first half and were within two possessions for the first 9:27 of the second half, but Kentucky took control of the game midway through the second.
Jarnell Stokes had a monster game for the Vols as he tallied 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for ninth double-double this season. Jordan McRae added 17 points while Jeronne Maymon scored 12 .
Kentucky's twins Andrew Harrison (26) and Aaron Harrison (14) combined for 40 points while Julius Randle notched 18. For Andrew Harrison, it was a new career-high, surpassing his former best of 18. The Wildcats improved to 13-4 overall and 3-1 in the SEC.
The Wildcats were a near perfect 23-of-24 from foul line, making their first 17 attempts in the game. While Tennessee struggled late in the game and finished 16-of-23 from the stripe. Kentucky came into the game shooting 65.9 percent on free throws.
The Vols and Wildcats were within five points for the first 9:27 of the second half. Andrew Harrison's pair of free throws with 10:33 left in the game gave Kentucky a seven-point lead at 51-44. Aaron Harrison canned a 3-pointer with 8:39 left to give Kentucky a 56-48 lead.
The Harrisons combined for 9 consecutive Kentucky points to put UK ahead by 10 at 58-48 with seven minutes on the clock.
The Vols made a push in the final minutes as Darius Thompson knocked down the second 3-pointer of the game (2-of-13) for Tennessee to cut the deficit to six at 64-58 with three minutes left.
Tennessee cut the deficit to six two more times in the final minute, but were unable to overcome Kentucky's near-perfect free throw shooting.
Kentucky finished the game 7-of-16 for 44 percent on 3-pointers after coming into the game shooting 30.5 from beyond the arc.
Tennessee dominated the glass all game, outrebounding Kentucky, 39-24, led by Stokes' massive prowess down low.
The Vols came out strong in the first half and led by as many as nine on several occasions, but Kentucky took the lead with 45 seconds remaining the half on a James Young 3-point field goal. The Wildcats led 34-32 at halftime.
Stokes and Randle dueled it out in the first half as the Vol posted 12 points and 11 rebounds while Randle a game-high 16 points at intermission. Stokes' 11 rebounds were personally more than the entire Kentucky team total of 10, as Tennessee won the battle on the glass, 23-10 in the first 20 minutes.
With the Vols ahead 22-13, Kentucky chipped away, outscoring Tennessee 21-10 over the final 10:12 of the half to take its first lead of the game.
Stokes opened the game with authority scoring the first six points of the game, in the first 2:19 of action forcing John Calipari to call timeout early in the action. Stokes knocked down a pair of free throws 4:15 into the game giving him eight points, which equalled his total in his previous two games at Rupp Arena.
Tennessee returns home to host Arkansas on Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. The game will tip at 8 p.m., an air on SEC TV and can be heard on the Vol Network.
Tennessee Head Coach Cuonzo Martin
"I thought both teams competed, played hard on both ends of the floor. Thought it was a physical game. I thought the refs did a great job of allowing guys to play physical. I thought guys did a good job without fouling, playing physical. I thought we did a great job in the first half and made some plays down the stretch, I think the last three minutes of the first half they made plays. (Julius) Randle did a great job of putting the team on his back, getting to the rim, getting fouled, making his free throws, even made a 3-point shot. I thought they did just enough in the second half - excuse me, end of the first half to take the lead, get a little momentum. We had some breakdowns in the second half; we had opportunities in transition where we didn't capitalize like I thought we could have. Did miss 3s but I thought we did a tremendous job of rebounding the basketball on both ends. Told our guys, especially our bigs, they did an exceptional job of keeping those guys off the glass because you are talking about one of the better rebounding teams in all of college basketball the way they crash the offensive glass, that was a focus for us, to keep them out of the lane. (Andrew) Harrison did a great job of attacking that ball screen in the second half, getting in the lane, shooting a pull-up so give him credit for making an adjustment, he made the plays to really get them over the hump because going into the second half Jeronne (Maymon) knows in order to keep Randle off the glass make him work for everything and I think Randle might have had one field goal in the second half. I thought, Jerrone's thing was, he might not get it, I won't get so one of your guards get it. I thought he did a great job with that. I thought he and (Jarnell) Stokes played well, I thought we played well as a team just didn't play well enough."
On being impressed with Andrew Harrison's performance
"I wouldn't necessarily say impressed with the Harrison guys, they're talented ball players, I had seen them quite a bit in high school so we knew they were very talented so I'm not necessarily impressed by the numbers he put up because they can play. But the game plan, I mean, you've got to stop five guys, they're very talented. Willie Cauley(-Stein), they don't go inside to him a lot but they feed him the lob passes, the penetration and pitch action so it's really hard to help up and I thought we did an exceptional job trying to keep those guys out of the lane, especially the first half and most of the second half. Keeping them out of the lane is when you help up and the big guys behind you throw the lob passes. But no, I wasn't surprised by his effort, he's a talented ball player and they did a great job as a team making free throws. Again, I thought Julius set the tone the first half and (Andrew) Harrison took over in the second."
On how important it was to get off to a strong start like they did
"It was great but the thing about it, when you're a ball player, especially for our guys, they look forward to the atmosphere and the stage so it wasn't a stage of being hesitant, weren't ready to play, we felt like we had an opportunity to come up and win a ball game against a league opponent, just came up short. Again, great atmosphere, most players want to play - you want to be the best, you consider yourself the best, you want to play on a stage like this."
On how well Jarnell Stokes played and what led to it
"Well he was aggressive, he was hungry. Again, whenever he plays aggressive he is a totally different basketball player, as well as Jeronne Maymon. I thought Jarnell did a great job of attacking the glass, being aggressive, being assertive, imposing his will, rebounding the basketball and defending. I thought he did a good job, I'll have to go back to be exact and watch our film, but I thought he did a great job of keeping Harrison in front of him in those ball screens, Harrison just did a good job of shooting that pull-up. I thought he did a solid job on both ends."
Junior Forward Jarnell Stokes
On the hype of the matchup with Julius Randle
"I wasn't getting into any hype of anything. Julius Randle is legit. This is how we've been playing all season, playing up and down, but we always make a run. We've been playing well all season, but this is kind of sad that we didn't finish the game like we were supposed too."
On getting off to a great start
"I wanted to trust in my craft. Guys say I struggle with length, so I feel like guys with length struggle with size. That was my mindset coming into this game. I would rather be strong and mobile than long. I just wanted to answer those questions coming into this game."
On what gave him encouragement about the great start
"It felt good to get off to a great start because we were playing at our pace. I've lost weight. I've made myself into more of a machine. I want to run the floor, and I felt like we started the game off by doing that and then we played into Kentucky's hands as far as slowing the ball down and then those guys used their size."
Senior Guard Jordan McRae
On what he felt Kentucky's defense did well to stop him
"The past couple of games I have been missing shots that I normally hit. Its tough"
On how the team felt about Kentucky despite their efforts
"The whole game was tough for us. We did what we were supposed to do. We rebounded and guarded them well. We just kept missing shots."
On how he feels his team started the game
"We started off good. We started off really strong. That was something we wanted to do. We just had to finish the game better than we did.
RS Senior Forward Jeronne Maymon
On if he feels they executed their game plan
" Oh most definitely. We came in and we wanted to pack it in and make them hit shots and they hit shots. That is just the way the ball fell tonight."
On how the team feels about executing the plays and still losing
"It is very disappointing, we just have to get back in the gym and tweak a few minor things. I think we will keep the ball rolling.
On what helped Kentucky get back into the game
"I think a lot of different things happened to help Kentucky get back into the game. It's their gym, they are going to make runs. We handled ourselves pretty good we just couldn't get the ball to fall in the last couple minutes."
KENTUCKY Coach John Calipari
Q. Not many teams beat you guys on the boards. They did. How did you like the way you found ways to win and the free-throw shooting?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, our guards didn't rebound. Many of those balls were over our bigs' heads and they were in a mud wrestling match down in there. The balls came over, and you had (Armani) Moore grabbing rebounds; he gets three. You had guys over the top -- our guards didn't rebound.
And then (Jarnell) Stokes outworked our big guys. He just outworked them. There was a free ball and he got them, almost every one. But what I did like, we were strong with the ball. We put more pressure. They're a team that runs great stuff and posts the ball, and I couldn't get certain guys to pressure the ball. You're out. And there goes Jarrod (Polson). How did he look? Then there goes Dominique (Hawkins). How did he look? And it proves that there are games where you've really got to get up and play because they're not trying to play fast. They're trying to get motion and they're trying to post it.
That's a good team. Tennessee is not going to lose many in our league. I'm just happy we don't have to see them again until tournament time possibly, and I hope we don't see them there. They're a physical team. (Jordan) McRae is as good as they get. Their guard play, they've got length. They come off the bench with (Derek) Reese, who's a different kind of big guy. They run their stuff. Cuonzo (Martin) has got them guarding. They're really physical. They'll bump and grind. (Jerrone) Maymon came back, and look at him; he's a beast.
Q. Talk about the boost that Dakari (Johnson) gave you off the bench today.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, Willie (Cauley-Stein) didn't play as well as he'd been playing, and we went with Dakari and he was terrific. What happened was we played through Julius (Randle) in the first half, and you notice we kind of put him on different spots out on the court and then told him to beat the guy on the dribble, and he created for his teammates.
In the second half we tried it, but they crowded him and he held the ball too long, so he tried to go one more dribble than he really needed to because they were crowding him, so we went through. Andrew (Harrison) did an unbelievable -- that's who I expect. Maybe not 10 out of 10, I'll give him a 9 out of 10 free throws. But what he did in pick-and-rolls; he got in the lane; he made the right play; he had no turnovers; he made big shots, the runner, the pull-up jumper; and he ran our team. He played like a point guard. So he got better today, he really did.
Alex (Poythress) was good again. You guys are looking at numbers, I'm not. Alex was good again, deserved to be out there that last rebound the end of half where he mixed it up.
It was a rough game. Some of the guys are in for a rough game, other guys on our team don't play as well when it's rough.
Q. What did you see in Andrew that said, okay, I can put the ball in his hands and he's ready to do this?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, we've been working really hard on pick-and-roll stuff for him and trying to teach him the pace of the game and how fast you have to go off the screen, how you have to set your man up -- how you have to attack the big man. What he was doing was messing with the ball. All the stuff, and then not covering any ground and not putting any pressure, and we've just been working for weeks on him doing that, and I thought initially we were trying to go over the top and then we told him, turn him down. You go and attack the 5 man, and he did a great job. He's big, he's got size, so it's not like a 6-foot guard going in there. He did good stuff.
Q. Every college you have somebody that wants to know what you're doing to work on free throws or wants a new guru to come in. What happened today?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, we did something new in the last two days, and it's something that is unique and something that -- I don't know if it's ever been done, but we went in the pool and we put on those pool baskets, and we got them to get down and just start making them for the mental part of it. It worked. And if you believe that, I've got great land to sell. (Laughter.)
Q. The way they beat you in Knoxville last year, did you sense the returning players had a little more juice for this game?
COACH CALIPARI: No, they were going to do the same thing. The game was 6-0. I had to call a time-out, had to get some guys out of the game. Had to change up what we were doing. They make it hard because it's hard to go switch pick-and-rolls with them because they're so big. Even if you switch behind, you're really giving them something that they do well.
So it made it hard. We didn't play the pick-and-roll great. Andrew got hung up on just about every pick-and-roll again. We were trying to switch late. Our bigs didn't do a good job of squaring off the ball handler. But again, they beat our brains in. I mean, I can remember in the tournament a few years ago when we beat their brains in, like by 50. It's how this stuff is. This was a close game. We played them in close games. They beat us bad, we beat them bad. They're Tennessee. They're really good.
Q. What was the difference for Julius in the second half, and was there any of the fatigue or cramping stuff --
COACH CALIPARI: No, they just went at him, and he didn't give it up quick enough and I wasn't comfortable with what I was seeing, so I just said spread the court, we're going with Andrew. It had nothing to do with anything in the first half. We isolated him and made them come off and he made a quick pass. He had those assists. Second half he held it a little long, tried to go one extra bounce, and that's the old stuff that creates the turnovers. So we just went away.
These things, you're trying to do what you can to win the game, and then you deal with egos after. Let's just win, and I'll deal with all that stuff after. Again, he's a physical player. He gave them trouble.
Q. Forty-four percent 3-point shooting. With what you guys already do well offensively, can this performance elevate you to that level that you'd like to be at offensively?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, the biggest thing is we're not a team that's going to shoot 25 3s. That's not who we are. We're a driving team. We're a post-up team. We're a rebounding team. I want us to be a vicious defensive team so we can get out and run because we're fast. But if you jam us in, we will shoot 3s.
Now, we have had games like this and we've had other games where we're 1 for 12. My thing to them is if you think you are missing, you're probably going to miss, so step in and shoot a two. If you know -- you're in the frame of mind, I'm making this, do it. The second thing I'm telling the passer, tell the guy to shoot it: "Shoot it! Shoot it!" Because then that'll build his confidence; dude wants me to shoot it, I'll let it go.
So we're trying to get these guys -- again, I've got all 18-, 19-year-old kids. This is all new, how to finish a game. James Young took it out of bounds. Why did you take it out? I was close to the ball. Really? You're not supposed to take it out, whether you're close to the ball, far from the ball, the ball hits you in the head. You don't take it out. Why did you do it? I don't know. We get a lot of that.
All I can tell you is we're going to continue to work. This team is getting better. They're playing and fighting. They're playing together. They're executing better. Again, we held a pretty good team to 41 percent from the floor. Last game we held them to 37, out-rebounded them by 18. They may have done a few things and we broke down a little bit, but we're moving the right way.
#44, Dakari Johnson, C
On making adjustments
"You have to learn to adjust. You adjust during practice and during the game. I have just been trying to do that and do what I am supposed to do. I just executed as I was supposed to. I tried to mix it up and be physical."
On waiting his turn to play
"Yeah it is tough, but my mom told me to listen to the coaches and get better. I have been trying to do everything exactly as I am supposed to do it. I am happy for my teammates when they were playing well. I just waited my turn. It starts in practice and has carried over to the games."
On Jarnell Stokes
"He is really strong. He gets low to the ground. I get higher than he does, and I was trying to play physical with him."
#5, Andrew Harrison, G
On his personal growth over the past few weeks
"I know that I am not playing as well as I can and that is what I am working on. That just comes from hard work and being in the gym. I just want to play well for my team."
On what he would like to personally improve on
"Making decisions and finishing through with contact, no matter what the call is."
On if the team wanted to make a statement after the results of their game against Arkansas on Tuesday
"Coach (John Calipari) always tells us to just play and never worry about the end result, just play the game. The night before you cannot think about the game tomorrow, you don't know who is going to win or lose. The day of the game you don't even know that. So you just work as hard as you can and don't worry about the end result, you just try to get better everyday."
On having a breakthrough performance today
"Its frustrating when you hear people that say you are not as good as you think you are. I feel that it is my responsibility to step up as the point guard of this team."
On what he's learned up to this point from his first game to this game
"Hard work and that every play matters. Even when you are off of the ball defensively, it matters. You have to stay aware at all times."
On going 23/24 on free throws
"When we are doing that along with good defense, it is going to be tough to beat us."