Kentucky shocks No. 3 UT
By: By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Jodie Meeks walked toward press row as the final seconds ticked away, raising his arms as a sea of blue-and-white clad fans at Rupp Arena roared in the aftermath of another home win over a ranked Southeastern Conference opponent.
Finally, it seems, order has been restored at the home of college basketball’s winningest program. The groans of a disappointing fall suddenly seem like a long time ago.
Gardner-who? San Diego? Sorry, the Wildcats who beat No. 3 Tennessee 72-66 on Tuesday night say they’re not the same team that played so meekly in losses to the “who’s that” of the college basketball world during a nightmarish nonconference season.
Playing with the kind of intensity and passion first-year coach Billy Gillispie kept preaching would come once his team got healthy, the Wildcats dominated the Volunteers in the final minutes to beat a top five team for the first time in more than two years.
“It means we can play with the best of the best if we believe,” Kentucky forward Perry Stevenson said. “If not, we’ll come out and get embarrassed. But I think our guys are believing and I think it showed tonight.”
It showed over a brutal final 10 minutes as the Wildcats (8-9, 2-2) snapped Tennessee’s 11-game winning streak and likely made the Volunteers’ first appearance in the poll’s top three short-lived.
In other games involving ranked teams on Tuesday, No. 11 Wisconsin beat Michigan 64-61 and No. 22 Drake defeated Creighton 68-60 in overtime.
Kentucky, which handed No. 14 Vanderbilt its first loss of the season 10 days ago in double overtime, held the Volunteers (16-2, 3-1) to three field goals over the final 10:45, playing the kind of bruising defense that became the trademark of Gillispie’s teams at Texas A&M.
“This was a huge confidence boost for us,” said Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson, who had 20 points and eight rebounds. “We believed we could win. When we play like this and believe in ourselves, we can roll.”
Even Gillispie, who’d just as soon get a technical foul as smile, was impressed.
“These guys have figured out that it is a 40-minute game,” Gillispie said. “They were going to be tough as nails to play against no matter who they are playing. No matter what the situation might be they are going to battle till the end every single time.”
Tennessee’s Chris Lofton scored 22 points, including five 3-pointers to set the SEC career record for 3s with 367 to break the mark held by former Arkansas guard Pat Bradley. But Kentucky guard Ramel Bradley did an excellent job of shutting down Lofton for long stretches in the second half.
“I don’t know if (Bradley) has ever played a better game,” Gillispie said. “He was outstanding tonight defensively, leadership-wise and enthusiastic-wise. I don’t know if he could have done any more for us tonight.”
Tennessee shot 39 percent from the field, including 7-for-26 on 3-pointers. Take out Lofton’s 5-for-10 effort from behind the arc, and the rest of the Volunteers were 2-for-16. Rather than try to exploit its size advantage in the lane, Tennessee settled for 3-pointers down the stretch, with disastrous results.
“We didn’t have that intensity,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. “I don’t think it’s because we were too confident at all. I just think getting up for a game every single night (is difficult).”
The Wildcats rallied from 10 points down early in the second half, eventually tying the game at 50 with 11 minutes left. They took the lead for good with 1:30 remaining on two free throws by Bradley while the Volunteers went cold.
“We had the shots that we wanted, but I think we rushed them,” said Tennessee forward Wayne Chism, who had 12 points. “We had good looks, we just couldn’t knock them down at the end.”
Gillispie knew his young, inexperienced squad couldn’t run with the deeper, more athletic Volunteers, so Kentucky spent most of the game grinding it out. The Wildcats would run 25 to 30 seconds off the shot clock at times, trying to shorten the game.
It worked despite the best efforts of Lofton. Mired in a shooting slump for much of the season, Lofton didn’t waste any time heating up on the court where he became a high school legend. The native of Maysville — about an hour northeast of Rupp Arena — gave the Wildcats one last look at what they’ve been missing the past four years.
“It’s great to have the record, but a win would have been better,” Lofton said.
Wisconsin 64, Michigan 61
Marcus Landry and Michael Flowers both scored 14 points for the Badgers (16-2, 6-0 Big Ten), who shot 52 percent from the field, committed just 11 turnovers and were 6-for-9 from the free-throw line.
Manny Harris had 26 points for the visiting Wolverines (5-14, 1-6), who dominated the glass 36-24 and turned 21 offensive rebounds into 22 points.
Michigan had a chance to take the lead with less than a minute left but Harris lost the ball as he drove the lane. Landry hit a 3-pointer to make it 62-58.
Drake 68, Creighton 60, OT
Josh Young, the Missouri Valley Conference’s leading scorer, returned after missing three games with a sprained right ankle and hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer in overtime. The Bulldogs (17-1, 8-0) celebrated their first national ranking in 33 years by extending their school-record winning streak to 16 games.
Kaleb Korver’s 3-pointer with 50 seconds left pulled the Bluejays (14-4, 5-3) within 61-59, but the Bulldogs put the game away at the free throw line.
Klayton Korver scored 14 points, Adam Emmenecker had 12 and Young added eight for the Bulldogs, who won in Omaha for the first time in seven games.