LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Patrick Patterson posted season-highs with 24 points and 15 rebounds as Kentucky snapped its longest losing streak in 17 years with a 69-47 win over Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
Ramel Bradley added 12 points and A.J. Stewart scored nine points for the Wildcats (5-5), who won for the first time in nearly a month.
Bradley and fellow senior guard Joe Crawford started the day on the bench but combined for 17 points, all in the second half as the Wildcats quickly pulled away after they entered the game.
The losing streak was Kentucky’s longest since a five-game skid during the 1989-90 season, the first year under former coach Rick Pitino.
That team was riddled with NCAA sanctions. This one has simply looked overmatched in losses to teams like North Carolina and Indiana.
For a day at least, the Wildcats were able to restore a bit of swagger, if not polish. Kentucky held Tennessee Tech (4-8) to 26 percent shooting and had 10 steals and five blocks while playing with the kind of intensity it has lacked much of the season.
Patterson led the way, dominating at both ends of the floor while collecting his fourth double-double of the season. The freshman was 11-of-14 from the field and showed no ill effects from an ankle injury that kept him out of Tuesday’s loss at Houston.
At times, however, it wasn’t pretty. The Wildcats turned the ball over 21 times and got off to another sluggish start with their two senior leaders on the bench.
Still, even with a makeshift starting lineup, Patterson made sure the Wildcats snapped out of their weekslong swoon. Kentucky built a 29-21 halftime lead thanks to its defense even as it struggled to hold onto the ball.
It wasn’t until the two seniors entered the game early in the second half that the Wildcats were able to take control. Both received ovations from the Rupp Arena crowd upon entering, and they responded by spearheading a 20-7 run that broke the game open.
Bradley had five points during the run while Crawford found open teammates, collecting five assists in his short stint on the floor.
After being chastised by coach Billy Gillispie for being too meek at times, the Wildcats showed some fight against the Golden Eagles.
Kentucky held Tennessee Tech scoreless for more than six minutes late in the first half, and didn’t back down when challenged. Normally placid forward Perry Stevenson mixed it up briefly with Tennessee Tech’s Rashaud Nixon, and teammate A.J. Stewart quickly rose to his defense.
Anthony Fisher led Tennessee Tech with 12 points and Frank Davis added nine, but the Golden Eagles couldn’t find the magic that led them to a 17-point road win at Oregon State last Sunday.
The Wildcats played without guard Jodie Meeks, who sat out with a hip flexor strain. Meeks played his first game in six weeks during the loss to Houston, scoring 21 points. But he did not practice following the game, but could return next Saturday when the Wildcats host San Diego.