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Explosive Second Half Leads No. 11 Vols Past Kentucky, 82-71

LEXINGTON, Ky. – A combined 50 points from five-star freshmen Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson and a momentum-shifting 26-6 second-half run propelled the No. 11 Tennessee basketball team past Kentucky, 82-71, on Saturday at Rupp Arena.

The Tennessee triumph made Rick Barnes the only active head coach to lead his team to at least three wins at Rupp Arena as the visitor.

“It means we’ve come up here with some good basketball teams and good players,” Barnes said. “A year ago we were down 16 with 11 minutes to go and won and that’s been one of the greatest comebacks I’ve been a part of. Tonight, we were down 10 at halftime but the credit goes to the players. It’s fun watching them play like that. I just love the way they got locked into the game. They were oblivious to everything else going on other than on the court but I’m excited for our guys and excited for our fan base.”

The win was also the first time UT (13-4, 6-4 SEC) has beaten Kentucky (5-12, 4-6 SEC) in back-to-back games at Rupp.

Johnson finished the night with a team-leading and season-high 27 points—17 of which came in the second half—on 9-of-16 shooting while also drilling 9-of-11 from the foul line. The freshman from Shelbyville, Tennessee, also added four rebounds, one block and a steal.

Springer, meanwhile, erupted for 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting, scoring 14 in the second half. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native also recorded five rebounds and two blocks.

Sophomore stat-sheet-stuffer Josiah-Jordan James came off the bench to log his first career double-double, finishing the night with 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.

Victor Bailey Jr. also enjoyed a productive night off the bench, totaling nine points and four rebounds in 24 minutes.

The Vols battled through foul trouble in the opening half as Kentucky drew 15 fouls and went 13-of-15 from the line to take a 42-34 lead into the break.

The opening 10 minutes of the second half saw both teams trade blows before Tennessee exploded for a 12-0 run to take a 60-58 lead with just more than eight minutes to play.

The Vols extended the run to 26-6 over a nine-minute span to build a 74-64 lead at the under-four-minute media timeout.

Tennessee then withstood Kentucky’s final charge over the final three minutes to cement the final result.

Victory at Rupp Common for Vols Under Barnes:Rick Barnes has coached Tennessee to three wins over Kentucky at Rupp Arena in only six tries. With Saturday’s triumph, Barnes separated himself from the short list of coaches who own two visiting wins at Rupp—Mark Gottfried, Rick Pitino, Bill Self, Will Wade and Roy Williams.

Prior to Barnes, the last head coach to log at least three wins as the visitor at Rupp Arena was Billy Donovan, who led Florida to four wins there. Barnes is the only head coach—active or inactive—whose teams have won three times at Rupp during John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky.

27 the Magic Number for UT at Rupp: Keon Johnson backed up senior John Fulkerson’s career-high 27-point performance in last season’s victory in Rupp with 27 points of his own to lead UT past Kentucky on Saturday night.

More “Vols at Rupp” Nuggets: Tennessee seniors Yves Pons and John Fulkerson on Saturday became the first Vols ever to play in three victories at Rupp Arena. 

Vols sophomore Josiah-Jordan James has now played two games at Rupp—both wins—where he averages 13.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals.

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