Fulkerson sets career-high in historic comeback as Vols down Wildcats at Rupp
By: John Dunn
The All Vol Call in Show
Tennessee versus Kentucky -- one of the SEC's most played rivalries. Since 1910, these teams have met on the hardwood. Over the course over the 110-year series, the two teams have become bitter rivals.
Kentucky is the winningest program in college basketball history, however, Tennessee has more wins over the Wildcats than any other school in the nation.
With Kentucky coming into Knoxville earlier this season and walking away with a victory, the Vols needed this win for momentum and to help them get into the NCAA tournament.
The game started in favor of Kentucky, with the Wildcats jumping out to a quick lead. John Fulkerson knotted the game at 7-7 by finishing a lay up through contact and connecting on a free throw, before giving Tennessee their first lead of the game at 9-7.
Kentucky tied the game at 9-9 before being fouled on a three-point shot attempt. They connected on all three free throws, spurning a 7-0 run, allowing the Cats to take a 14-9 lead, before Fulkerson ended the run, drawing the score to 14-11 in favor of Kentucky.
The Cats opened up a 10-0 run, extending their lead to 24-11, before Jalen Johnson connected on a pair of three-pointers to end the run and draw the Vols back to within seven points, 24-17. Jordan Bowden pulled Tennessee back to within five at 24-19 on a finger roll lay up on the ensuing possession.
Again, Kentucky took off on a 7-3 run, capped off by a Quickley steal and three pointer, followed by a media timeout, leaving the score at 31-22. In the final 4:19 of the second half, the teams traded buckets, leaving the Vols trailing by single digits, however, with time drawing to a close, the Wildcats followed up a buzzer-beater attempt with a put-back dunk to extend their lead to 11-points at the half, 42-31.
Kentucky opened the second half on a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 48-31, before Fulkerson ended the run with a lay up finished through contact, bringing the score to 48-34. In the following minutes, Tennessee began to chip away, cutting back to within seven points at 53-46. The margin remained at seven points after a pair of Bowden free throws, 58-51, with less than 12 minutes remaining in the game.
Tennessee drew back to within five points at 58-53 with eight and a half minutes remaining in the game. Kentucky's momentum seemed halted. On the ensuing play, Yves Pons found Fulkerson underneath the basket. He was then fouled, but completed the lay up and a free throw, pulling the Vols back to within a single shot, 60-58, matching his career-high in points with 25 points and seven minutes left in the game.
Josiah James then connected on a three point attempt on the assist from Fulkerson, giving Tennessee the lead 61-60. Santiago Vescovi then extended the Tennessee lead to 63-60 with six minutes remaining in the game. Kentucky tied the game at 63-63 before Pons connected on a three to give the Vols a 66-63 lead with less than five minutes remaining.
Leading 68-65, James was assessed an offensive foul, allowing the Wildcats to chip away at the lead after Nick Richards hit one-of-two free throws, bringing the score to 68-66. On the ensuing play Pons was called for a foul on a screen, giving Kentucky the ball back. However, after an errant shot, the Wildcats turned the ball over to the Vols.
With 2:38 remaining, Vescovi found Pons for an elbow jump shot, extending the lead to 70-66 in favor of Tennessee. On the ensuing play, Fulkerson drew three defenders, allowing Pons to clean up a missed shot, extending the lead to 72-66 with 1:38 remaining in the game. After a foul was assessed to the Vols, Richards has connected on a pair of free throws, drawing the Wildcats back to within four, 72-68.
On the following play, James forced a shot that was cleaned up by Fulkerson, extending the lead to six points at 74-68. However, on the next Wildcat possession, they connected on a lay up to draw back to within four with under a minute remaining.
Kentucky elected to foul James in order to save time. With 49.5, James connected on 1-of-2 free throws, giving Tennessee a 75-70 lead. After a missed lob by the Wildcats, James again stepped to the line, this time connecting on both, extending the lead to 77-70 nwith 37-seconds remaining.
With time running out, Tennessee connected on big free throws down the stretch to secure a historic 81-73 victory at Rupp Arena.