KNOXVILLE Tenn. — Tennessee posted its largest win ever against Kentucky with a 88-58 dismantling of the defending national champions before a sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday.
Tennessee (14-10 overall) won its third game in a row and evened its record in the SEC at 6-6. Kentucky, playing without freshman standout Nerlens Noel, fell to 17-8 overall and 8-4 in the league.
Junior guard Trae Golden poured in SEC career-high with 24 and handed out eight assists without a turnover. Golden was 11-of-12 from the foul line. Junior Jordan McRae scored 15 and Kenny Hall, who sat out last game, returned with 12 points.
Sophomore Jarnell Stokes fell short of his seventh consecutive double-double as he finished with nine points and nine rebounds.
The previous largest of victory in the series with Kentucky, which dates to 1910, was a 28-point win, 87-59 on Jan. 22, 1968.
For Kentucky head coach John Calipari, the game marked the largest loss of his college coaching career since his first season as a head coach at UMass in 1988-89. The largest loss of Calipari’s career came in an 88-55 defeat (33 points) on Feb. 16, 1989. He also lost by 31 and 30 that season.
The Vols beat a defending national champion for the eighth time in 11 games.
Tennessee knocked off a ranked team for the second time this season with the other win coming against No. 23 Wichita State on Dec. 13. It was also the fifth win over a ranked for the Vols under Cuonzo Martin with three coming last season. That also included a win over a defending national champion as the Vols topped UConn on Jan. 21, 2012.
For the Vols, the 88 points were their most of the season, surpassing 83 vs. UMass on Nov. 18, 2012.
The Vols were a perfect 5-of-5 from 3-point range including three treys by Skylar McBee.
Tennessee led by as many as 39 in the game with 2:28 left in regulation as D’Montre Edwards made a pair of free throws on technical foul free throws. That put UT ahead, 86-47.
It was a very chippy and physical game as four technical fouls were called, three on the Wildcats and one on the Vols’ Brandon Lopez in the final minutes.
A wild first half saw the Vols build a 50-26 lead at halftime. It was the most points the Vols scored in a first half of an SEC game since Feb. 27, 2007, when they led Florida, 50-31. The +24 margin was the largest since leading LSU by +32 (50-18) on Jan. 4, 1999.
Tennessee went on a 13-0 run over four minutes to expand its lead from 22-12 to 35-12 on a pair of Josh Richardson free throws with 7:22 left in the first half.
Kentucky’s assistant coach John Robic was ejected from the game with 11:17 left in the first half. It came on the heels of a controversial alternate possession that happened seconds earlier. That call led to a 3-pointer by McBee, which gave the Vols a 22-10 lead with 12:53 left in the first half.
The Vols return to action on Tuesday night as LSU comes to Thompson-Boling Arena at 7 p.m.