Hoops Preview: Tennessee vs. #15 Kentucky

Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee men’s basketball team returns home to Thompson-Boling Arena to take on the 15th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m. ET on CBS.

Saturday’s game can be seen on CBS, online through CBS Sports Live and on any mobile device through the CBS Sports App. Fans can access CBS Sports Live here. Ian Eagle and Bill Raftery will have the call.

Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertlekamp describing the action.

Although Saturday’s game is sold out, fans can still purchase tickets through Vivid Seats. Access to the Vivid Seats website can be found here.

Last time out, the Vols rallied back from a 15-point deficit to knock off SEC foe Alabama, 69-68. The victory was the first time UT came back to win a game when trailing by at least 15 points, since March of 2017 when they took down Alabama.

Tennessee was led by 20-point scoring outputs from senior Jordan Bowden and Junior John Fulkerson. Bowden finished the night with 20 points (16 of which came in the second half), knocking down 10-of-11 attempts from the free throw line, while adding a career-high six steals. Fulkerson closed out the contest with a career-high 22 points, converting on 8-of-9 field goal attempts. His eight makes from the field also tied a career-high.

Junior Yves Pons was huge for the Vols on the glass, finishing with a career-high 14 rebounds, with eight being offensive rebounds.Pons also added 14 points and three blocks, increasing his blocks streak to 22 games. His best moment of the night came in the game’s waning moments with the Vols up two. Alabama guard Jaylen Forbes drove into the lane trying to tie the game, before Pons rejected his shot attempt to seal the UT victory.

Tennessee is currently riding a four-game home win streak against the Wildcats and a win would keep head coach Rick Barnes undefeated against Kentucky at home during his coaching tenure on Rocky Top.

A win would also even the series to 52-52 between the programs when the games are played in Knoxville.

Up next, Tennessee stays at home for a Tuesday night matchup with Arkansas. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network.

THE SERIES
• Tennessee trails the all-time series with Kentucky, 155-73, dating to 1910.
• The Wildcats have a 52-51 edge when the series is played in Knoxville.
• Tennessee has beaten Kentucky in Knoxville in each of the last four seasons and has never lost at home to the Wildcats under Rick Barnes.
• Overall, the Vols have won four of their last six games vs. Kentucky.

A WIN WOULD…
• Even the all-time series at 52-52 when it is contested in Knoxville.
• Give the Vols five consecutive home wins over Kentucky.

STORYLINES
• This week one year ago, Tennessee was ranked No. 1 in both major polls.
• An unranked Tennessee team has defeated a Kentucky team ranked in the AP top 15 16 times previously, most recently in 2017.
• Tennessee ranks fourth nationally in average home attendance, drawing 18,742 fans per game this season. Saturday’s game is a sellout.
• Junior forward John Fulkerson scored a career-high 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting during Tuesday’s win at Alabama. He is shooting a career-best .652 this season.
• Vols freshman Josiah-Jordan James has missed Tennessee’s last two games with a groin injury. He had started every game prior to last Saturday, and his current status is day-to-day.
• Tennessee logged neutral-site victories over Seton Hall teams coached by the legendary Bill Raftery in 1976 and 1978.

LAYUP LINES
• Tennessee leads the SEC in scoring defense (61.5 ppg, 20th nationally) and ranks third in field-goal percentage defense (.389, 27th nationally).
• Junior forward Yves Pons has blocked at least one shot in every game this season. He leads the SEC and ranks 20th nationally with 2.6 bpg. His 2.9 bpg during SEC play also leads the league.
• Freshmen Josiah-Jordan James (13-28) and Santiago Vescovi (19-50) combine to shoot .410 from 3-point range during SEC play.
• Tennessee has finished each of its last two home games with only four offensive rebounds. That ties for the fewest amount of offensive boards by the Vols during the Barnes era (four-plus seasons).
• For the first time in program history, Tennessee on Feb. 1 started a lineup that included four different nationalities (American, French, Serbian, Uruguayan).

ABOUT KENTUCKY
• Kentucky sits near the top of the SEC as we hit the midpoint of the league play. The Wildcats (17-5, 7-2 SEC) bounced back from a tough road loss at Auburn Saturday by knocking off Mississippi State, 80-72, on Tuesday night.
• Head man John Calipari, in his 11th year leading the Wildcats brought in another top recruiting class, headlined by guard Tyrese Maxey. Calipari was faced with replacing last year’s production from departed NBA Draft picks Tyler Herro and PJ Washington.
• The Wildcats have received solid production from junior center Nick Richards. Richards is currently UK’s leading scorer (14.6 ppg), rebounder (8.3 rpg) and shot-blocker (2.2 bpg). He has been especially big on the glass during league play, where he ranks third in the conference, pulling in 9.2 boards per game.
• Sophomore guard Ashton Hagans has also been big in leading the Wildcat offense. His 7.0 assists per game lead the SEC and rank eighth in the country. He’s also been big on the defensive end, recording a team-high 2.1 steals per game.
• Another scoring threat for the Wildcats has been sophomore Immanuel Quickley. He, like Richards is averaging 14.6 points per game this season. However he has upped that average to 17.4 ppg in league play, which ranks fifth in the SEC.
• Notable Kentucky alumni include Thomas Hunt Morgan. Morgan was a famous evolutionary biologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933 for his groundbreaking research that discovered the role of the chromosome in human heredity.

SERIES HISTORY & NOTES
• The Kentucky series is UT’s oldest and most-played among SEC opponents. The Vols and Wildcats first met on Feb. 5, 1910, and have clashed 228 times over the years.
• On 13 different occasions—first in 1950 and most recently in 2019 (twice)—Tennessee has defeated a Kentucky team ranked in the AP top five.
• No program in college basketball has logged more wins over Kentucky than Tennessee (73).
• Kentucky is one of only two SEC schools (along with Alabama) to lead its all-time series against the Volunteers.
• Four Tennessee All-Americans were Kentucky natives: Allan Houston, Chris Lofton, Danny Schultz and Paul “Lefty” Walther.
• Tennessee has 15 all-time wins over the Wildcats at Thompson-Boling Arena, including four straight.

LAST TIME VS. KENTUCKY
•  Facing an eight-point deficit with three minutes left, No. 8 Tennessee rallied in the final moments to down No. 4 Kentucky, 82-78, in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament on March 16, 2019, at Bridgestone Arena.
•  For the second straight year, the Vols advanced to the tournament championship game.
•  UT struggled to get any offense going for the majority of the second half, missing 15 out of 20 shots during a 13-minute stretch. However, Tennessee rallied in the face of adversity.
•  After UK’s Keldon Johnson drove to the basket and converted an “and-1” play, the Wildcats had all the momentum, and Big Blue Nation was roaring with 2:58 left to play. SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams responded 13 seconds later by drawing a foul and knocking down both free throws.
•  Lamonté Turner stepped up with 30 seconds left and drained a 3-pointer to give the Vols an insurmountable lead.
•  Jordan Bone iced the game in the final seconds, knocking down all four of his free throws to keep the Big Orange up by two possessions the remainder of the way.
•  Tennessee’s All-SEC trio paved the way for the come-from-behind victory, standing as the top three scorers in the game. Admiral Schofield finished with a game-high 21 points, while Williams recorded 20 points, 17 of which came in the second half, seven rebounds and was 9-of-11 from the charity stripe. Bone added 18 points and five assists.

MEMORABLE VOL PERFORMANCES AGAINST KENTUCKY
• Kevin Punter Jr.’s 27 points were the most scored by a Vol against the Kentucky in 10 years as Tennessee defeated the Wildcats, 84-77, Feb. 2, 2016, in Knoxville. The senior point guard made three 3-pointers and was 11-of-12 at the free-throw line.
• Chris Lofton reeled off 31 points, Major Wingate scored 12 and longtime NBA point guard C.J. Watson added 10 as No. 11 Tennessee beat Kentucky 75-67 at Rupp Arena on Feb. 7, 2006.
• Beating the Wildcats was three times as nice during the 1978-79 season. UT notched program win No. 900 in Lexington on Jan. 20, 66-55, before topping UK 101-84 in Knoxville on Feb. 17. Then the Vols won the 1979 SEC Tournament with a 75-69 win over UK in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 3. Current Vol Network radio analyst Bert Bertelkamp was a junior on that Tennessee team.
• As Bernard King walked off the court at Memorial Gym after a deflating 88-82 loss on Jan. 13, 1975, a Kentucky fan flipped a lit cigarette into the Tennessee legend’s hair. Outraged, King vowed he would never lose to Kentucky again. He vigorously carried out that promise, finishing his career 5-1 against the Wildcats.

BARNES + CALIPARI = 1,400+ WINS
• Saturday’s game features the two winningest coaches (total career Division I wins) in the SEC.
• John Calipari is the league’s active leader in career wins, with 725. Rick Barnes is a close second with 705 victories to his credit.
• Among all active Division I head coaches, Calipari and Barnes rank sixth and seventh, respectively, in total head coaching wins.
• Barnes and Calipari became friends while working a Pitt basketball camp in the late 1970s. The star player at that camp? Current Arizona head coach Sean Miller.

CALIPARI AMONG TENNESSEE’S MOST-FACED ACTIVE COACHES
• On Saturday, John Calipari will coach his 28th career game against the Vols. Among active college coaches, he has the most career meetings against Tennessee.

VOLS HAVE NINE WINS AGAINST CALIPARI 2.0
• Since UK coach John Calipari returned to the college game in 2000-01, Tennessee has dealt him 11 losses. No team has more wins over Calipari-coached teams during that span.

BOWDEN A FINISHER
• In Tennessee’s last four games, senior guard Jordan Bowden has scored 89 percent of his points in the second half. He has averaged 16.0 points during that span, while his second-half scoring average stands at 14.3 points.

 

UT Athletics

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