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Saturday, March 13, 2010
Kentucky 74, Tennessee 45

By Chris Low

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The 3-point shots started to fall for Kentucky in the second half, thanks to Eric Bledsoe and Darnell Dodson.

But the defense, the rebounding, the endless pursuit of the 50-50 balls … they’ve been a constant all season.

The No. 2-ranked Wildcats had to work for it, but they were just too physical, too big and too talented for Tennessee and pulled away in the second half for a 74-45 semifinal romp in the SEC tournament.

Something just seems right in the world when the Wildcats are back in the SEC tournament championship game. Think about this: They’ve now played in the semifinals of this tourney 36 times and have failed to make the final only twice.

Kentucky (31-2) will face the winner of the second semifinal between Mississippi State and Vanderbilt in Sunday’s championship game. The Wildcats will be gunning for their 26th tournament championship.

It was a rugged game and void of much finesse. There was a double technical foul called on Tennessee’s Wayne Chism and Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins, and Tennessee guard Melvin Goins was ejected a few minutes later for a flagrant foul after replays showed that he delivered a shot to Cousins’ midsection.

Kentucky couldn’t buy a jump shot in the first half and struggled from the free-throw line all game, but Bledsoe connected on two straight from 3-point range early in the second half to open up the game. Dotson opened it up even more with just under eight minutes to play when he knocked down back-to-back 3’s.

In the second half, Bledsoe and Dodson combined to go 6-of-9 from 3-point range, a scary thought for anybody who has to face these guys in the NCAA tournament.

If they're hitting from the perimeter, coupled with Kentucky's muscle inside and John Wall's ability to get to the glass, the Wildcats are as good a pick as any to win the NCAA tournament.

The Vols (25-8) got nothing easy on offense and shot just 30.9 percent from field.

Cousins had his problems at the free-throw line (7-of-17), but he was a beast inside with 19 points and 15 rebounds, his 19th double-double of the season. That's after he looked disinterested in the Wildcats' quarterfinal game.