KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee showed Kentucky just how difficult life could become for the 25th-ranked Wildcats without Nerlens Noel.
Trae Golden scored 24 points and had eight assists without a turnover Saturday as Tennessee rolled to an 88-58 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball victory over Kentucky, giving the Volunteers their most lopsided win in the 216-game history of this series.
“They deserved to beat us by 50 today,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “They played harder. They played rougher. They executed better. They were stronger with the ball. We just had passive guys who did not want to make plays. (We were) tentative.”
Kentucky (17-8, 8-4) was playing its first game without Noel, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Tuesday during a 69-52 loss to No. 7 Florida.
The 6-foot-10 freshman was leading the nation in blocks (4.4), was tied for the SEC lead in rebounds (9.5) and ranked fourth in the SEC in steals (2.1).
The Wildcats weren’t the same without him.
A Tennessee offense that has struggled for much of the season often scored at will against a Kentucky team that entered the day ranked second in the SEC in field-goal percentage defense (.382). Tennessee (14-10, 6-6) shot 58 percent from the field and outrebounded Kentucky 39-21.
“The way we played today, I don’t think there’s too many teams we would have lost to,” said Tennessee guard Jordan McRae, who scored 15 points. “I think If they had still had (Noel), we would have won. You can’t prove that, so it is what it is.”
Kyle Wiltjer scored 18 points, Julius Mays had 12 points and Jarrod Polson had a career-high 11 for Kentucky.
No. 7 Florida 83, Auburn 52: In Auburn, Ala., Mike Rosario scored a season-high 22 points, and Kenny Boynton had 16 for Florida.
The Gators (21-3, 11-1) raced to a 25-point halftime lead and set a season high with 15 3-pointers on 30 attempts,
Erik Murphy added 11 points and went 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
Chris Denson led Auburn (9-16, 3-9) with 13 points and Jordan Price had 12.
Alabama 68, South Carolina 58: In Tuscaloosa, Ala., Trevor Lacey scored 17 points, and Rodney Cooper and Nick Jacobs had 10 each to lead Alabama.
Levi Randolph contributed nine rebounds for the Crimson Tide (17-8, 9-3).
For South Carolina (12-13, 2-10), Brenton Williams had 14 points.
Trevor Releford had two steals, giving him 170 for his career and moving him ahead of Robert Horry for third on the school’s all-time steals list. The junior needs seven steals to tie Senario Hillman, Alabama’s career leader.
Arkansas 73, Missouri 71: In Fayetteville, Ark., BJ Young converted on a pair of three-point plays in the final minute to help Arkansas rally over Missouri.
The Razorbacks (16-9, 7-5) trailed 70-66 with less than a minute remaining, but Young converted on back-to-back three-point plays to put them up 72-71.
He then added a free throw to secure the win.
Marshawn Powell led Arkansas with 24 points.
Keion Bell led Missouri (18-7, 7-5) with a season-high 25 points, while Earnest Ross added 16.
Vanderbilt 63, Texas A&M 56: In Nashville, Tenn., Rod Odom scored 19 points and Dai-Jon Parker added a career-high 17 points to lead Vanderbilt.
Parker made a personal-best five 3-pointers as the Commodores (10-14, 4-8) won the first meeting between the schools since 1955.
Vanderbilt used a 20-6 run spanning the first and second halves to pull away from the Aggies (15-10, 5-7).