Kentucky (11-7, 2-3 SEC) handed Tennessee (14-3, 4-1 SEC) its first loss in SEC play, 63-56, Saturday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.
The Vols jumped out to a quick lead but couldn’t find any rhythm afterwards as Kentucky spoiled Chris Lofton’s retirement ceremony.
Here’s three quick takeaways on a shocking Tennessee loss.
Kentucky Shuts Down Tennessee’s Offense
Tennessee’s offense has improved and found consistency in the first four SEC games of the season. Against Kentucky, Tennessee’s offense couldn’t get into a first half rhythm as the Wildcats made everything difficult for the Vols.
Ironically, Tennessee started red-hot offensively, making four of its first five shots from the field. The Vols made just six of their next 20 shots in the first half.
Kentucky did a great job of running Santiago Vescovi off the three-point line and Zakai Zeigler missed a handful of good looks at the rim, including a wide open layup in transition. Besides Zeigler’s missed bunnies, Tennessee struggled to get a lot of open shots or transition looks.
Missing shots wasn’t Tennessee’s only offensive issue, the Vols coughed the ball up nine times in the first half leading to nine points in transition for Kentucky. Tennessee has been elite on the offensive glass this season but it was Kentucky that grabbed nine offensive boards to the Vols’ two in the second half.
Much of the same continued in the second half where Tennessee was able to get more good looks but still struggled to score. Missing layups was particularly costly for the Vols as Zeigler missed another wide open one in the second half as did James.
The Uros Plavsic Game
In a game where Tennessee’s offense struggled badly, the Vols got offensive production from one of the more unlikely candidates.
Center Uros Plavsic scored 19 points on an extremely efficient nine-of-11 shooting from the field. The senior entered the matchup averaging 5.5 points per game but nearly quadrupled his production against the Wildcats.
There was nothing flashy about Plavsic’s scoring, the center just got to his best spot over-and-over again and the Wildcats couldn’t stop it.
Plavsic’s best spot is getting to his left shoulder and shooting a right-handed hook shot. He did it over-and-over again and shot it right over the shorter, 6-foot-9, Oscar Tschiebwe.
Give Plavsic credit for continuously fighting for good positioning before he got the ball while showing off his strong touch at the rim.
The Serbia native is far from one of Tennessee’s best or most go-to offensive options, but Plavsic gave the Vols more than anyone else against the Wildcats.
Kentucky Dominates The Glass
Tennessee has improved this season with its ability to win on the glass. The Vols are a solid defensive rebounding team and one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, but against Kentucky it was the Wildcats that dominated the glass.
Kentucky earned a, 43-23, rebounding and a, 13-4, offensive rebounding advantage in the rivalry matchup.
Part of the discrepancy was due to Oscar Tschiebwe being an elite rebounder especially on the offensive end, where he snagged four boards.
But that wasn’t the only reason for Kentucky’s dominance on the glass. Jacob Toppin and Ugonn Onyenso each grabbed two offensive rebounds a piece.
Tennessee’s frontcourt struggled mightily on the boards with Plavsic, Olivier Nkamhoua, Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka grabbing just 10 rebounds. Nkamhoua particularly struggled, totaling just two rebounds.
Tennessee prides itself on being an extremely tough and physical team. Kentucky was tougher and more physical on Saturday. No where was that more clear than on the glass.
Tennessee heads on the road to face Mississippi State Tuesday night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. ET.