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Reeves, Sheppard lead No. 15 Kentucky over No. 4 Tennessee 85-81

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Antonio Reeves and Reed Sheppard each scored 27 points as No. 15 Kentucky spoiled No. 4 Tennessee's late season run with an 85-81 victory Saturday.

The Wildcats (23-8, 13-5 Southeastern Conference) have now won five in a row and seven of their last eight. The win wrapped up a double-bye in the SEC Tournament. Sheppard came off the bench to hit six 3-pointers in the second half and seven for the game. Justin Edwards scored 16 and Rob Dillingham had 11.

“(Reeves) is a high-level scorer,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “He does a good job getting in the right position. He's surrounded by guys who can play. They were able to get the angles on us.”

The Volunteers (24-7, 14-4) were led by SEC Player of the Year candidate Dalton Knecht with a career-high 40 points. Zakai Zeigler had 17 points and nine assists. Jonas Aidoo had 11 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.

“Knecht went absolutely bonkers on us,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari.

“I told (Knecht) he needed to get his teammates involved,” said Barnes. “The defense was getting into him pretty good.”

The Vols made it close. With 2:35 left in the game, Sheppard's last 3-pointer gave Kentucky an 80-69 lead. From there, the Vols whittled it down to 84-81 with 31 seconds to play. A 3-pointer and 3-point play by Zeigler were critical. Josiah-Jordan James missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game. With 5.9 seconds left, Dillingham hit a free throw to ice the win.

“(James' missed 3-pointer) was a wide-open shot,” Barnes said. “It just didn't go down.”

“It doesn't matter what the score is, (the Vols) think they're going to win,” said Calipari. “That's a veteran team.”

Tennessee, which clinched the SEC title Wednesday, had its seven-game winning streak snapped. While battling for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Vols had wins over top SEC contenders Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina the last two weeks.

“I really hope this is one we can learn from,” said Barnes. “We were way too emotional. We've had a brutal three weeks.”

Edwards hit three straight 3-pointers to lead Kentucky to a 31-20 lead with 2:45 left in the first half. Knecht went on a tear, scoring seven straight points. Tennessee trailed 33-29 at the break.

The Vols shot just 8 of 32 in the first half. Knecht had five of the baskets and 19 points.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kentucky: The Wildcats came into Rocky Top having won six of their last seven. The only blemish was a last-second loss at LSU. …. Freshmen guards Dillingham and Sheppard are starting to blossom and are solid complementary pieces to the veteran Reeves heading into the postseason. … Kentucky entered the game ranked No. 189 in team defensive efficiency.

Tennessee: With the SEC title already secured, the Vols are playing for NCAA Tournament seeding. They are on the bubble between the last No. 1 seed and the first No. 2. That won’t be decided until after the conference tourney is completed. … Tennessee’s schedule is ranked the fourth toughest in the country while Kentucky is No. 32.

UP NEXT

Kentucky and Tennessee will both play in the SEC Tournament.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball