LEXINGTON, Ky. – Tennessee cut a 20-point halftime deficit all the way down to eight points, but was unable to overcome a sluggish first half on the road Saturday, falling 66-54 at Kentucky.
Santiago Vescovi and Jahmai Mashack led the second-half charge for Tennessee (20-7, 9-5 SEC). Vescovi scored all of his 17 points after halftime, while Mashack finished with career-high totals in points (16) and rebounds (8), scoring nine of his 16 points in the second half.
After trailing by 20 points at the break, Tennessee began its second-half run right out of the gates, immediately rattling off a 7-0 spurt to cut Kentucky’s lead to 39-26. From there, the Vols steadily chipped away at the Wildcats’ lead—trimming the deficit to eight point on two occasions.
The first came after a 9-3 Tennessee run—seven points of which were scored by Mashack—that made the score 58-50 with 7:25 remaining. Kentucky, however, responded with four straight points, and Tennessee was unable to get the lead back down to eight again until there were just more than two minutes remaining.
In total, 26 of Tennessee’s 35 second-half points came from Vescovi and Mashack.
After an opening half in which it shot just 26 percent from the field and 1-of-13 from 3-point range, Tennessee trailed 39-19 at halftime.
Tennessee began the first half making just one of its first 11 field-goal attempts, allowing Kentucky to jump out to a 10-2 lead in the opening eight minutes of the game.
The Vols narrowed the Wildcats’ lead down to four after their initial spurt with a quick 6-2 run, but Kentucky went on to outscore Tennessee 24-9 in the final eight minutes of the first half to take a 20-point lead into the halftime break.
UP NEXT: Tennessee is back on the road for a rematch of last year’s SEC Tournament championship game against Texas A&M on Tuesday in Bryan-College Station. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
VESCOVI CLIMBS TO THIRD ON UT’s ALL-TIME 3-POINT LIST: With three made 3-pointers Saturday, senior Santiago Vescovi moved into a tie for third place with VFL JaJuan Smith (2004-08) on Tennessee’s career list. Vescovi now has 253 career 3-point makes.