KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It's taken a long time, but Kentucky is getting better. Just in time for the postseason, too.
A season full of frustration is finally coming into focus. The Wildcats won their third straight game Saturday, topping No. 19 Tennessee 70-55.
Isaiah Jackson scored 16 points and Davion Mintz had 15 in going 5-for-5 on 3s in the first half as Kentucky (8-13, 7-7 SEC) matched its longest winning streak of the season.
Keion Brooks had 10 points and 12 rebounds and Olivier Sarr scored 10 for a team that's always considered a lock for the NCAA tourney.
“Even when we were playing bad (this season), I still believed in them,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “They're kids. You keep working with them, but you hold them accountable when they're not doing it right.”
Victor Bailey led the Volunteers (15-6, 8-6) with 18 points. Keion Johnson scored 15 and Yves Pons had 10.
“That we were beaten by just 15 (points) is a surprise,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “We were that bad. We got stagnant (on offense). We play better when we move it and get going.”
Early in the game, Kentucky had a 15-0 run that made it 23-10. Mintz had two 3-pointers in that burst and Jacob Toppin had a pair of baskets.
Up 15 at the break, Kentucky got the lead to 60-40 midway through the second half.
“We're a good defensive team,” said Calipari. “We knew this was going to be hand-to-hand combat. (Tennessee has) a chance to be in the Final Four. We came in here and did it. They weren't at their best today. We were at our best.
“I don't even know our record. I just coach them to get better," he said.
Said Barnes: “I did not think we had great mental preparation."
• No. 20 Missouri 93, South Carolina 78: Dru Smith scored 17 points and Mark Smith 13 to help the Tigers (14-6, 7-6 SEC snap a three-game losing streak.
Missouri finished with five players in double figures. Jeremiah Tilmon added 17 points, Xavier Pinson 16 and Kobe Brown 12 for Mizzou.
AJ Lawson had a game-high 22 points to lead South Carolina (5-11, 3-9), which lost its fifth straight.
• Florida 70, Georgia 63: Colin Castleton scored 14 points, while Tyree Appleby and Tre Mann each scored 13 to lead the Gators (11-6, 7-5 SEC).
Florida ended two-game losing streak and marked its first win since Jan. 30. Contests against LSU and Texas A&M were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.
Sahvir Wheeler led the Bulldogs (13-9, 6-9) with 27 points and Tye Fagan scored 14.
• Mississippi State 66, Ole Miss 56: Iverson Molinar scored 17 points and D.J. Stewart 16 for the Bulldogs (12-11, 6-8), who shut down Ole Miss star Devontae Shuler.
Shuler, who entered with a 16.3-point average and scored 31 points in Ole Miss' previous game, was 1-of-15 shooting and scored four points.
KJ Buffen led the Rebels (12-9, 7-7) with 13 points off the bench. Tolu Smith added 12 points for MSU, which shot 51 percent and held Ole Miss to 38 percent.