by David Cassilo / @dcassilo

Both Kentucky and Tennessee have spent time in the top-10 this season, but that seemed like a distant memory entering Tuesday’s game. The Wildcats had dropped two in a row, and the Volunteers have been reeling ever since mid-December.

That reeling continued against Kentucky as the Wildcats defeated the Volunteers 73-61 in Bruce Pearl’s return to the bench after his eight-game SEC suspension.

The usually stellar Tennessee defense allowed Kentucky to shoot nearly 45 percent from the field, keyed by DeAndre Liggins’ 19 points. Four of the five Kentucky starters scored in double-figures in what proved to be an easy victory for John Calipari’s squad.

For Kentucky, it took an all-around effort to get back on the winning track.

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

“I’m not sure of how John felt about how they played. My guess is that he would be proud of the veterans for stepping up and playing physically,” Pearl said. “Kentucky, they can play a lot better than that. But in the areas they had to win, in the areas of toughness and rebounding, they did win.”

The players who had to contribute to the win, contributed to the win.

Cal was right a week ago. His freshmen are his best players. But there are only three of them on a team that plays six players. For Kentucky to play to its potential, its veterans have to play to their potential. That means Harrellson, the senior center, and Miller, the junior forward, and Liggins, the junior guard.

The SEC is wide-open, and even the Wildcats and Volunteers at 5-4 have as good a chance as any to win the league. Kentucky showed Tuesday that it might have the most talented group in the conference, but it will need consistent efforts like this to ultimately capture the SEC crown.