Kentucky vs. Tennessee score: Wildcats blow 17-point lead in loss to Volunteers, will slip to a No. 4 seed

No. 6 Kentucky had already locked up the SEC regular-season championship and No. 1 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament heading into the final home game of the season, but those honors come with far less fanfare following a second-half collapse at home in a 81-73 loss to Tennessee. 

The accomplishment was something of note for the Vols, who had just five victories in Rupp Arena prior to Tuesday night’s win, and for Kentucky, now 161-6 against unranked competition at home in the John Calipari era.It’s also the first time that the Wildcats have lost under Calipari when leading by double-digits at halftime at home.

Kentucky led by as many as 17 points and seemed to control the game until the early stages of the second half. Tennessee cut down on its mistakes and got things going with a 9-0 run and by the end of the game the Vols had outscored Kentucky 47-22 over the final 16:54 of the game. 

John Fulkerson was the star of the evening for the Vols, keeping Tennessee in the game through stretches of poor play and then being part of the response when Kentucky tried to reassert its dominance in the game’s final minutes. Fulkerson finished the evening with 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting and six rebounds. He absolutely dominated the matchup down low with Nick Richards, who had been a bright spot in Kentucky’s path to an outright SEC regular season championship.

According to CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm, Kentucky was the last team on the No. 3 seed line heading into the game and Tuesday’s loss will knock the Wildcats down to a No. 4 seed in the next Bracketology update Tuesday. 

On Tuesday night, there wasn’t much about Kentucky’s second half performance that exhibited the championship caliber that was sensed coming out of the Auburn win. Calipari was able to cash in on his bet that, as he said after the loss to Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic, they were going to be alright, many of the worst habits from this team’s early-season stumbles were suddenly all on display at the same time. 

Credit Tennessee for out-efforting Kentucky in many possessions on the boards and winning the rebounding battle in the second half, but with that credit comes blame in bad loss that will carry weight for the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament seeding. 

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