Kentucky downs Tennessee, passes first real SEC road test

Remember last season's Kentucky club? They went to the Final Four, had a handful of pros, but were an embarrassing 4-6 on the road against conference opponents.

It was a consistent topic of conversation among fans and bloggers.

They're too young and inexperienced, they're not playing to win but for themselves, yada yada yada.

This season, there are many opinions as to whether or not this is John Calipari's most talented team he's had at Kentucky.

I think it is because, for once, there's a bunch of dynamic non-freshman players that contribute and matter.

Regardless of your opinion, we can at least take solace they have a high level of mental toughness following this afternoon's come-from-behind victory against Tennessee in Knoxville.

A true rivalry, the Volunteers looked focused and rested despite arriving back on campus at 2 a.m. on Friday morning following a loss to Mississippi State in Starkville. Between that repeated nugget of info and his love affair with Jarnell Stokes, Jimmy Dykes tempted me to hurl a pint glass at my precious flat screen television.

The Wildcats trailed for a majority of this game, but always sat within striking distance. It was their second lowest eFG % output, and third time of the season their opponent had a higher eFG % from the floor than they did.

For most of the season the Wildcats have been in the top three in the country when it comes to defensive shooting statistics. They've been the model of how to get points off great defense, but the transition points were not really there in this game and they had to score more running half-court sets.

The mitigating factor that propelled the Cats to victory?

This was only the second game all season (first if you don't count lowly Samford) that Kentucky held their opponent to under 10 offensive rebounds. The Volunteers snatched up nine, and preventing just a few less second and third chances could have been the difference here in a very tight game.

While there's still six more conference road tests left, today's victory was the start to a positive trend for this team. If Kentucky can keep this up, they'll be a #1 NCAA Tournament seed shoe-in and be able to stay fairly close to home en route to the Final Four.

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