Second-half runs powers Kentucky past Tennessee, 80-70

Second-half runs powers Kentucky past Tennessee, 80-70

February 18th, 2016 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Tennessee's Armani Moore, left, pulls down a rebound next to Kentucky's Marcus Lee during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Photo by James Crisp

Gallery: Vols stick to the script in another road loss

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Moore 8-15 5-9 21, Alexander 1-1 2-4 4, Punter Jr. 4-14 9-10 19, Phillips 2-5 2-2 7, Baulkman 1-5 1-2 4, Hubbs III 2-8 0-0 4, Schofield 2-6 0-1 4, Mostella 1-3 0-0 2, Reese 1-1 2-2 5. Totals 22-58 21-30 70.<


Lee 2-3 0-0 4, Willis 8-12 2-2 25, Ulis 3-15 4-4 11, Briscoe 2-10 1-4 5, Murray 8-12 9-10 28, Labissiere 2-6 0-0 4, Matthews 0-2 0-1 0, David 0-0 0-0 0, Mulder 0-0 0-0 0, Humphries 1-2 1-2 3, Hawkins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-62 17-23 80.<

Halftime—Kentucky 36-30. 3-Point Goals—Tennessee 5-14 (Punter Jr. 2-7, Phillips 1-1, Reese 1-1, Baulkman 1-3, Schofield 0-1, Mostella 0-1), Kentucky 11-24 (Willis 7-11, Murray 3-6, Ulis 1-4, Briscoe 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Tennessee 39 (Moore 11), Kentucky 45 (Briscoe 10). Assists—Tennessee 7 (Baulkman, Moore 2), Kentucky 13 (Ulis 9). Total Fouls—Tennessee 17, Kentucky 19. A—24,274.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kevin Punter Jr. limped out of the visitor's locker room at Rupp Arena late Thursday night.

Tennessee's top scorer, on a bum ankle, played poorly by his lofty standards against No. 14 Kentucky, yet he still almost led the Volunteers in scoring.

Too often this season the Vols have failed to support their talisman, and it led to another road loss in Lexington.

The Wildcats blew open an eight-point game with a 10-0 spurt in less than a minute early in the second half and cruised to an 80-70 victory to hand Tennessee its third loss in four games.

Punter overcame a slow start to score 19 points, and Armani Moore double-doubled with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but only one other Tennessee player scored more than five points.

"We need more guys," first-year coach Rick Barnes said after his Vols dropped to 1-12 away from home this season.

"Armani, we put so much on him to defend and rebound. He is a big-time competitor, too. Sometimes my frustrations, I kind of take it out on him because I want to win and we expect so much from him. You look at it, when it's all said and done, you look at what he does, and he does it out of just sheer determination.

"He and Kevin both need more consistent help from teammates."

Punter, the No. 2 scorer in the Southeastern Conference, got off to a third slow start in four games — the other was a four-point game against Auburn — by scoring just two points in the first half and starting 1-for-9 from the field.

"I can't (explain why)," he said. "It can be (frustrating), to be honest with you. I'm strong enough — I promise you — I'm strong enough to get through it. I'm not really worrying about that. I'll get through it. I've been through harder things and more mentally (tough) things than this. I'll be all right."

Despite the slow start, Tennessee (12-15, 5-8) trailed by only six at halftime thanks to 13 points from Moore.

The Vols trailed by eight early in the second half when Kentucky (20-6, 10-3) put the game away with a lightning-quick spurt. Derek Willis hit a 3-pointer, Jamal Murray converted a three-point play and Tyler Ulis canned another 3.

Suddenly the lead was 18, and its apex was 22.

The freshman Murray poured in 15 of his 28 points in the first half, while the 6-foot-9 Willis hit five of his seven 3s in the second half en route to a 25-point performance.

"We let the crowd get into it tonight," Moore said. "In transition they got a lot of wide-open shots. (Willis) hits one, then he hits two, then he hits three. It takes the momentum away from the game, and that's what killed us tonight."

Despite the slow start Punter still managed to score 19 and nearly led the Vols in scoring for the 19th time in 27 games this season.

It appears, however, that the toll of the heavy load he carries, both in terms of minutes and responsibilities, for his team is wearing him down at this late stage of the season.

"It's tough," Punter admitted. "I'm not going to sit here and say it's not. Trust me, it's tough, and it can wear on you, man. I promise you, it can. I'm not thinking about that. I try my best to do what Coach needs for me to do and go out there, execute and play defense."

Moore registered his first 20-point game since scoring 29 against Army in the fifth game of the season.

Tennessee had only seven assists on 22 made shots, though.

"Me and K.P. have to get more people involved," Moore said. "We just can't try to do everything ourselves. We've got to try to be playmakers for other people because we're going to have the ball in our hands 99 percent of the time, so we've just got to get better with that."

Barnes was pleased by the poise of freshmen Shembari Phillips and Kyle Alexander, but the trio of Robert Hubbs, Admiral Schofield and Detrick Mostella combined for just 10 points.

The Vols were outscored by 25 points in Hubbs' 19 minutes on the floor.

Devon Baulkman left the arena wearing a sling on his troublesome left shoulder after injuring it in the second half. The senior starter was in pain leaving the floor. He underwent an X-ray after the game.

"He's had that problem before," Barnes said. "They thought it popped out on him, which has happened in practice some. He's had to deal with that for the last couple of years."

It appears Punter will be dealing with his own nagging injury during what's left of this season.

"It hurt bad enough," he said, "but I'll be all right."

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