LEXINGTON, Ky. – Showing long-range accuracy wasn’t enough for Kentucky guard Malik Monk, who made an even bigger impression going up for rebounds more often than even he expected.
Others also registered all-out effort on both ends and typified the complete performance that No. 13 Kentucky had sought for weeks.
Monk had 20 points and a career-high eight rebounds, Derek Willis had 16 points and Kentucky made 10 3-pointers in the first half to roll past Tennessee 83-58 on Tuesday night.
Averaging just 2.2 rebounds per game coming in, the 6-foot-3 Monk matched his previous five games combined on the glass. He ended up second to Bam Adebayo’s 12 boards on a night the Wildcats topped the Volunteers 43-35 in that area.
“It was just me being around the paint,” said Monk, who even got rebounding advice from his brother Marcus, a former two-sport athlete at Arkansas and NFL player.
“My brother told me if I roam around there, a couple was just going to bounce to me and they did. But I had to go get a couple.”
Seeking to stay atop the Southeastern Conference, the Wildcats avenged last month’s 82-80 road loss to the Volunteers with their best performance in a while. Long-range shooting provided the biggest lift as Kentucky (21-5, 11-2) made 11, its first double-digit effort from behind the arc in a month, as Monk and Willis each made four in the first half.
The Wildcats held Tennessee (14-12, 6-7) to 35 percent shooting and led by as many as 28 points in handing the Volunteers their third loss in four games.
“It was good,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I think you see us different defensively. I think you see us different in transition defense. I think you see the difference offensively. Some of the rebooting you’re seeing.”
De’Aaron Fox had 13 points and six assists and Isaiah Briscoe had 12 points with six assists. Dominique Hawkins added 10 points as Kentucky won its third straight.
Admiral Schofield had 17 points and Jordan Bone 15 in Tennessee’s lowest output this season.
Tennessee: The Volunteers’ recent shooting struggles continued as they lost their 10th straight at Rupp Arena. After making 42 percent in the loss to Georgia, they were just 18 of 52 from the field (35 percent) and committed 13 turnovers leading to 17 points, including consecutive miscues leading to baskets early in the second half. More than anything, they couldn’t push the tempo and were outscored 18-0 in fast break points.
“We were just gosh awful,” coach Rick Barnes said, “and from Kentucky’s vantage point I think they probably got everything they wanted to get done. … There’s not many positives I can take from tonight.”
Kentucky: Good ball movement (17 assists) created good perimeter opportunities for the Wildcats, whose 10 first-half 3s were nearly as many as they had overall against Auburn last month (11). Their transition game also clicked throughout and they controlled the paint 32-18.
Kentucky took a big step toward trying to return to the Top 10, but needs to follow up at Georgia.
A game after matching his career high with 30 points, Vols freshman forward Grant Williams managed just eight against the Wildcats. Leading scorer Robert Hubbs III had just seven points and two rebounds in 24 minutes this time around against Kentucky after scoring 25 with seven rebounds last month in Knoxville. Barnes said he took him out in the second half after Briscoe scored a couple of easy baskets on him.
“Robert is better than that,” he added.
Tennessee: Hosts Missouri on Saturday.
Kentucky: The Wildcats visit Georgia on Saturday, seeking a better performance against the Bulldogs than the overtime win here two weeks ago.