Tennessee overcame a 21-point deficit to beat No. 20 Kentucky, 84-77, on Tuesday in front of a packed house at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville. The Vols (11-11, 4-5) trailed by 21 in the first half, cut the deficit to six at halftime and took control in the second half to get back to .500.
“You got to keep fighting,” Volunteers Guard Kevin Punter said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “You got to. We could have easily just settled, but you got to keep fighting.”
Punter led the way for Tennessee, finishing with a game-high 27 points and going 10-of-11 from the foul line. As a team, Tennessee shot 30-of-34 (88.2 percent) from the stripe.
“We work on free throws a ton in practice,” Punter said. “Guys work on free throws on their own. We understand how valuable it is to knock down free throws, especially in a game like this.
Forwards Armani Moore and Admiral Schofield had big games for the Vols. Moore had 18 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Schofield had 11 points and eight rebounds. Derrick Mostella added 13 off the bench.
“Those guys hit open shots,” Punter said. “That’s what we need to win games.”
Tennessee entered the night having lost six of nine, including three by six points or fewer. On Tuesday, however, the Vols got the job done.
“We’ve just got to stay consistent,” Punter said. “A lot of times we revert back to our old ways sometimes and being slow and not being on edge, but tonight we were on edge for 40 minutes. A lot of times we come out and just play the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes we’re not really there. But we put the two halves together. We were down in the first half and we cut the lead, and then in the second half we came to play and we (won the game).”
Tennessee, which plays three of its next four games on the road, forced 11 turnovers and limited Kentucky to 41.9 percent shooting from the floor.
“We had the intensity really high here at home,” Punter said. “We really fed off that and got into a rhythm offensively and we just kept pushing. If every home game could be like that, I’m pretty sure we’ll win every home game (against) anybody that steps into this arena. It was great. I love those fans. They came out and supported us and we (got) the win.”