KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE (TICKER) —Reece Gaines scored 12 of his 22 points in the second half and added a key assist late as No. 14 Louisville rallied for a 72-69 win over Tennessee.
Louisville (14-1) extended its winning streak to 13 games, matching Oklahoma State for the longest in the nation. The Cardinals have won five straight on the road.
“This was a character win,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “On a night when the open shots didn’t go down, we didn’t hang our heads. We made the big plays.”
Louisville trailed almost all the way and did not take its first lead of the game until freshman Taquan Dean hit a 3-pointer with 4:14 left to provide a 66-65 edge.
The lead changed on each of the next four baskets, including Kendall Dartez’s jump shot from the left wing off a feed from Gaines with 54 seconds left. Erik Brown hit a pair of free throws 30 seconds later to seal the victory.
Gaines scored Louisville’s first 10 points of the second half. The rest of the Cardinals were held scoreless until Brown hit a shot in the lane to beat the shot clock with 11:51 left and got the Cardinals within 53-45.
“Reece Gaines is the premier guard in the country,” Pitino said. “I never thought he could play the point, but he carried the team on his shoulders. He was the difference in the game.”
Gaines shot 7-of-16 from the field and had six assists.
Ron Slay fouled out with 21 points to lead Tennessee (9-6), and often found himself on the floor diving after loose balls. On one play, the colorful Slay leapt over a chair and landed on a set of concrete stairs, but quickly returned to the floor.
Thaydeus Holden added 14 points and seven rebounds for Tennessee, which has lost four of its last six games.
The Volunteers led by as many as 11 points in the second half, but did not hold the lead. The collapse was not as dramatic as Tennessee’s performance in last year’s meeting, when Louisville came back from six points down in the final 32 seconds for a 73-72 win.
“I’m very disappointed,” Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson said. “Give Louisville credit for coming back in the second half with some big 3-point shots. We were completely worn out with about seven minutes left in the game.”
The Cardinals have won four straight road games in the series and have not fallen to the Volunteers here since 1922. Louisville has won its last four visits to Knoxville.