Kentucky Silences Critics In Historic Upset Over No. 5 Tennessee

Well, it's a good thing they didn't fire Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari after that loss to South Carolina last week.

The Wildcats, coming off a defeat to one of the worst Southeastern Conference teams that ended their 28-0 home winning streak, limped into Knoxville, Tennessee, on Saturday without two starters and with its worst SEC start since 1987 at 1-3.


And they danced off the floor with a 63-56 win over No. 5 Tennessee in front of 21,678.

For now, the critics will be silenced somewhat.

In the history of Kentucky basketball, it marked the first win over an Associated Press top five SEC opponent on the road by an unranked Wildcats team. The Volunteers (14-3, 4-1) were 12-point favorites with more health and more depth.

"We needed to win a game," Calipari said. "And to do this here is incredible with all the clutter these kids were dealing with."

There was even talk that Calipari would be let go and take the open coaching job at Texas, but it's amazing what a major victory can do.


Kentucky (11-6, 2-3) won without starting senior Sahvir Wheeler because of a shoulder injury and sophomore forward Daimon Collins because of a foot injury. Guard Cason Wallace played sparingly as he continued to struggle with back spasms suffered in the 71-68 loss to South Carolina on Tuesday. He logged just 22 minutes and finished 0-for-2 shooting with five turnovers. He did add six assists.

Kentucky Overcame Injuries To 2 Starters

"We've been through a lot," said Kentucky senior guard C.J. Fredrick, who scored 13 points. "This is where we go. We go from here."

The Wildcats trailed 8-0 in the opening moments but quickly took over and led for most of the second half and by 33-26 at the half. Kentucky outrebounded a long Tennessee team, 43-19. Vols' 7-foot-1, 265-pound forward Uros Plavsic scored 19 points, but he managed only three rebounds. And 6-11 forward Jonas Aldoo led Tennessee in rebounding with only four.

"What we found out is we have some fight," Calipari said. "We did some dumb things down the stretch, but we played good defense."

Kentucky senior forward Oscar Tshiebwe dominated inside and looked like the national player of the year he was last season with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Guard Antonio Reeves scored 18 off the bench.

"That's awesome," Fredrick said of the Wildcats' rebounding. "I love this team. After what happened against South Carolina last week, there was no doubt we were going to come here and win."

South Carolina, by the way, lost by 94-53 to Texas A&M (12-5, 4-0) to fall to 8-9 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. There was another 40-point deficit in the SEC Saturday as No. 4 Alabama (15-1, 5-0) blitzed LSU (12-5, 1-5) for its largest margin of victory ever in the series and widest in the SEC since a 94-53 win over Auburn in 2005.

Kentucky picked up its first Quad 1 win after four losses in that category this season.

The Wildcats host Georgia (13-4, 3-1 SEC) at 9 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN. Tennessee plays at Mississippi State (12-5, 1-4 SEC) on Tuesday (7 p.m., ESPN2).

Written by
Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests. A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention. Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.