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Takeaways from Kentucky Wildcats' 74-66 Win over Tennessee Volunteers

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - JANUARY 14:  Head coach John Calipari yells at Andrew Harrison #5 during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on January 14, 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Wildcats 87-85.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Jason MarcumCorrespondent IIIJuly 5, 2015

The Kentucky Wildcats lost a heartbreaking game on Tuesday night to the Arkansas Razorbacks, and they were looking for a bounce-back game against the Tennessee Volunteers at home on Saturday.

They accomplished their goal, winning 74-66 in front of the home crowd. In the process, they made several improvements in areas where they've struggled for the majority of the season. 

Full of freshmen who are playing significant minutes, the team is facing a growing and learning process, and here are three takeaways from the game.

 

Andrew Harrison's Offense Keeps Improving

The top point guard prospect in the 2013 class, Harrison hasn't lived up to the hype through the first half of the season. Averaging just 10.6 points and 3.5 assists per game, he has failed to make the kind of impact that the Cats need from him to be championship contenders.

Jan 8, 2014; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Andrew Harrison (5) reacts during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Mississippi State 85-63. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

But against the Vols, he finished with a career-high 26 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. He also shot 10-of-10 from the free-throw line. 

He was far more aggressive than he's been in any game this year, and he repeatedly drove to the rim with no fear. When he didn't hit the layup, he drew fouls and converted at the charity stripe. 

He is finally starting to look like the first-round NBA draft pick that everyone though he was going to be this year. If he can keep improving, he'll be a lottery pick by the time the draft comes around.  

 

Free Throws and Ball-Handling

Turnovers and poor free-throw shooting have hurt the Wildcats and are big reasons why they were only 12-4 coming into this game after being the preseason No. 1 team.

According to Paul Jordan of WildcatBlueNation.comKentucky has lost four games by a total of 16 points this year, and in those games, the team has gone 87-of-142 from the line, for a mere 61.27 percent. 

The Wildcats also committed an astounding 60 turnovers in those four games, for an average of 15 per game. 

Needless to say, they needed to work on their fundamentals and skills that don't require 5-star talent to excel at. 

They showed signs of improvement in those areas on Saturday, committing just eight turnovers and shooting 23-of-24 from the free-throw line in an eight-point win. 

Jan 18, 2014; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Julius Randle (30) dribbles the ball against Tennessee Volunteers guard Armani Moore (4) in the first half at Rupp Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

 

Julius Randle Is Still a Beast

The freshman forward averaged 21 points per game over his first five collegiate games, but he has come back down to earth as of late. He's averaging just 13 points over the past four games.

Against UT, Randle scored 16 first-half points to help Kentucky cling to a 34-32 lead at the break, and he finished the day with 18.

He entered the year with a lot of promise, and he's lived up to the hype and then some. He is now a legitimate contender to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft.  

On Saturday, the Wildcats showed flashes of being the national title contender that everyone projected them to be in the preseason, but they still have a lot of work to do before they reach that point. 

 

Jason Marcum is a student in the Bleacher Report advanced sports media program. You can find more of his work at Stripe Hype and follow him on Twitter @UK_Fans

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