Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Life without Nerlens Noel might be a rough go around as Tennessee absolutely demolished Kentucky 88-58 on Saturday.
Playing in their first game since losing their star center, the Wildcats have to hope that the rest of the year won't play out the same way. The Volunteers attacked the Wildcats' interior, and by halftime Kentucky was facing their largest deficit since 2008.
The Volunteers have struggled offensively all year, being held to 50 points or less three times this season. That wasn't a problem against Kentucky as the Vols had 50 points at halftime, shooting 56.7 percent from the field in the first half.
The Wildcats struggled in almost all aspects of the game. Forward Kyle Wiltjer led the Wildcats with 18 points but shot 5-15 to get there. As a team, Kentucky shot just 35.8 percent from the field. About the only part of the game they excelled at was from the charity stripe, going 14-18.
Without Noels, who averaged 4.4 blocks a game, Tennessee went inside often and had plenty of success. Trae Golden led the Vols with 24 and picked up many of his points from the free throw line, hitting 11-12.
As a team, Tennessee shot 58 percent from the floor and went to the free-throw line 31 times. They won about every battle in the post, outrebounded the Wildcats 33-20.
Willie Cauley-Stein, the freshman center expected to shoulder much of Noel's load, was a non-factor for most of the game. He finished with two blocks, but struggled with foul trouble before finally fouling out with over nine minutes left to play.
The 88 points given up by Kentucky is the most the Wildcats have the entire season.