This week in Assist Map Mondays, we examine a top-five battle from the SEC. On Saturday, February 16, the #5 ranked Kentucky Wildcats soundly defeated the #1 ranked Tennessee Volunteers 86-69 in Lexington.
Kentucky utilized a balanced approach in this game, demonstrating their prowess on both sides of the ball. The Wildcats currently rank as KenPom’s 5th best team in the nation, standing at 14th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 8th in adjusted defensive efficiency. In this game, they managed to shoot 54.7% from the field, including 38.5% from three while holding the Volunteers to an uncharacteristically poor offensive performance. Tennessee, which ranks 2nd in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings, shot only 40.7% from the field while making seven of their 25 three-point attempts (28%).
The Wildcats finished the game with 14 assists, with freshman point guard Ashton Hagans accounting for half of the team’s total. Of Hagans’ seven assists, five went to freshman wing Keldon Johnson, while the other two went to sophomore forward PJ Washington and freshman wing Tyler Herro. Herro also contributed with three assists, all contributing toward PJ Washington’s team high 23 points.
With this win, Kentucky has closed the gap on a tight SEC race. The Wildcats currently sport a 10-2 conference record (21-4 overall) and trail only LSU (11-1, 21-4) and Tennessee (11-1, 23-2) in the SEC standings. Kentucky dropped a close one to LSU this past week at Rupp but still has time to make up ground. As a team with strong wins over UNC, Louisville, Kansas, and now Tennessee, the Wildcats are clearly a dangerous team and have now moved up to #4 in this week’s AP Poll. The Volunteers have strong wins on their resume as well, defeating Louisville and Gonzaga and have only lost two games—to Kansas and Kentucky. Both Kentucky and Tennessee (now ranked #5 in the AP Poll) should gain high seeds in both the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, with hopes of winning both.