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Kentucky handles Tennessee, moves to 26-0

Feb 18, 2015 - 4:08 AM Knoxville, TN ( - Devin Booker netted 18 points and Kentucky pulled away late for a record-setting 66-48 victory over Tennessee that kept the nation's top-ranked team unbeaten.

Kentucky (26-0, 13-0 SEC) achieved the first-ever 26-0 start in the history of its storied program, though the milestone win didn't come as easy as the final score indicated.

The Volunteers were able to stay close much of the way by doing considerable damage in the paint, but the Wildcats clamped down midway through the second half and outscored Tennessee 18-4 over the final nine minutes.

Andrew Harrison added 14 points and Trey Lyles had 10 for Kentucky, which held the Vols to 25 percent shooting in the second half after Tennessee hit at a 54.2 percent clip in the first.

"Whoever is the aggressor is going to win," Wildcats head coach John Calipari said. "They were the aggressor in the first half. We made a couple of shots that gave us a little gap. We were the aggressor in the second half."

Kevin Punter paced Tennessee (14-11, 6-7) with 14 points. Josh Richardson finished with 10 but went just 4-of-14 from the field.

"I thought we competed as a team, we showed that we can play with them," said Volunteers guard Armani Moore. "It is unfortunate that we came up short, but our team did a good job of competing tonight."

Kentucky's lead was just four after Punter's layup, one of a slew of inside baskets for the Volunteers on the night, brought Tennessee within 48-44 with 9:09 remaining.

The Wildcats then turned up the intensity on both ends, resulting in a 10-0 run that ultimately dispelled Tennessee's upset hopes.

Harrison helped fuel the surge with a steal and uncontested dunk that pushed the lead to eight. A 3-point play from Karl-Anthony Towns -- the talented freshman's only points of the game -- and Lyles' follow-up of a Harrison miss capped the sequence and staked the Wildcats to a comfortable 58-44 advantage with five minutes to go.

The Volunteers wound up missing 10 of their final 12 shots and were 0-of-4 from the foul line over the final 3:38 of the game.

"We did it on the glass, but we didn't shoot the ball very well," said Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall. "All that is credited to Kentucky because they are a heck of a defensive team at every position, (a team that) challenges and bothers shots, and certainly bothered us some tonight."

Tennessee handled Kentucky's vaunted defense just fine in the first half, with the Vols sinking seven straight field goal attempts during one stretch and owning a 26-23 lead late in the stanza following a 13-5 run.

Most of those points came underneath the basket, in part due to Towns being parked on the bench for nearly the entire period for having picked up two quick fouls in the opening minute. The Volunteers outscored Kentucky by a 34-22 margin in the paint for the game.

The Wildcats countered with six straight to move back in front, and took a 35-31 edge into the break when Booker and Harrison each buried 3-pointers in the final minute.

Kentucky showed signs of drawing clear earlier in the second half, with Willie-Cauley Stein's putback dunk and another Booker trey putting the Volunteers down by a 40-33 count.

Tennessee hung tough, though, and drew within 44-40 on Punter's second-chance bucket with 12:13 to play.

Game Notes

The 1953-54 Kentucky team won its first 25 games to set the program's mark for the best start to a season ... Calipari's 2007-08 Memphis team also won its first 26 games before having the streak ended by Tennessee ... Kentucky went 17-of-21 from the free throw line, compared to a 4-of-10 showing for the Vols ... The Wildcats were dealt an 88-58 loss by Tennessee in their previous visit to Knoxville back on Feb. 16, 2013.