No. 24 Kentucky (17-6, 6-4 SEC) looks to defend Rupp Arena and prevent a historic sweep from No. 15 Tennessee on Tuesday night. The Volunteers have tallied just five total victories in Rupp Arena, but look to sweep the Wildcats for the first time since the 1998-99 season under head coach Jerry Green.
In the last meeting between the two teams, Tennessee upset then-ranked No. 17 Kentucky 76-65 in Thompson-Boling Arena. Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams combined for 38 points and 17 rebounds for the Vols and the Big Orange out-rebounded the Wildcats by a margin of 37-30. Since their Jan. 7 meeting, things have been trending opposite ways for the two teams.
Kentucky is coming off one of its worst losses in head coach John Calipari’s time in Lexington. The Wildcats dropped their first ever loss to Missouri by a score of 69-60 after having a 10-game win streak over the Tigers. The only Kentucky player with over 10 points was freshman guard Shai-Gilgeous-Alexander as the Wildcats shot a dreadful 31 percent from the field.
Kentucky lost despite out-rebounding Missouri 40-36 and forcing 20 turnovers. This was mostly due to the Wildcats 2-of-20 shooting from beyond-the-arc and being held to just 18 points in the first half. Calipari and Kentucky gave up a combined 32 points to Jordan Barnett and Kassius Robinson of Missouri.
“Give Missouri credit,” said Calipari. “They did a great job and fought. I thought we had our chances at the start of the second half, and then we come down and do freshmen stuff.”
Meanwhile, the Vols are fresh off a dominant 94-61 drumming of Ole Miss on Saturday for their fifth straight win, which is their longest streak of the season. In one of its most impressive performances under head coach Rick Barnes, Tennessee had five players reach double-figures. Williams led the Volunteers with 17 points and four rebounds on the night, while guard Lamonte Turner caught fire from 3-point land to tally 17 points on the night as well.
“It looked like we were shooting into the Atlantic Ocean,” Barnes said. “Those come along once a blue moon. Defensively we locked in.”
Tennessee forced Ole Miss into 17 turnovers, as it made just 35 percent of its field goals in the loss. Most importantly, the Vols got more player involved than they have all season on Saturday, as 11 different players recorded at least two points in the game. Tennessee’s 94 points were a season-high.
Barnes’ squad has now topped their win total from last year. However, Barnes still believes his team can improve.
“History proves time and time again that when you start praising your team all the time, they relax, and they stop improving,” Barnes said. “And we need to keep improving. We can be a lot better.”
Edited by Ben McKee
Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics