Some excerpts from Tennessee writers covering Saturday’s UK-UT game:
Brendan F. Quinn of Knoxville News-Sentinel: A standing ovation greeted Cuonzo Martin back onto the Thompson-Boling Arena floor Saturday afternoon. Head down, he offered an acknowledging fist pump. Martin joins the Tennessee postgame radio show after every game. The crowd that stuck around after Saturday’s out-of-nowhere, smack-you-in-the-face and kick-you-when-you’re-down 88-58 beatdown of visiting Kentucky was far larger than normal.
John Adams of the News-Sentinel: A Tennessee fan was only a few yards past an exit portal when he turned to take another peek at the Thompson-Boling Arena scoreboard Saturday afternoon. Sure enough, it didn’t look any different from three seconds earlier: Tennessee 88, Kentucky 58. Fans eventually will forget the score. They will simply remember the occasion as the “Big Blue Massacre of 2013.” They also will remember it as the day the defending national champions looked so helpless in UT’s presence, Kentucky coach John Calipari might as well have screamed “no mas” with 7:22 left in the first half.
Mike Strange of the News-Sentinel: It was time for Tennessee to hold up its end of the rivalry after Kentucky had won nine of the past 10 games and six in a row. Mission accomplished. It means coach Cuonzo Martin has a crowd-pleasing marquee win for his second season. Last year, Martin’s first UT squad twice upset top-15 Florida teams and also took down No. 13 Connecticut, the defending national champion.This year’s banner day had been beating No. 23 Wichita State in December. That’s a fine win, but it doesn’t resonate like hammering an SEC rival, especially Kentucky. Mission accomplished.
Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press: Seven days after posting their first road win of the season at South Carolina, the Vols have vanquished Vanderbilt in Nashville and bludgeoned Big Blue at home under second-year coach Cuonzo Martin. Let the record show that Martin is now 6-4 against Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt with this season’s lone contest against the Gators still to come (Feb. 26). Let the record also show that while much was justifiably made of Kentucky being without star freshman center Nerlens Noel on Saturday and his nation’s-best shot-blocking following a season-ending knee injury, Martin has had to make do without senior forward Jeronne Maymon — who some believed was UT’s best player — all season.
David Climer of the Tennessean: Now it’s Kentucky that must redefine itself. With shot-blocker extraordinaire Nerlens Noel lost to a season-ending knee injury, the ’Cats were disjointed and out of sync. They shot just 35.8 percent and were outrebounded 39-21. “It was very disappointing on our part,” said ’Cats guard Jarrod Polson, who managed 11 points. “We didn’t come out of the gate with any fire and aggressiveness. They jumped on us early. “Obviously, we got killed, but you can’t look at this as an end-of-the-season type of thing. We’ve got to get tougher.”