Hoops Preview: #10 Tennessee at Kentucky

Hoops Preview: #10 Tennessee at Kentucky

Coming off a win over the nation’s top-ranked team, 10th-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball heads north for a rivalry showdown with Kentucky on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.
Fans can catch Saturday’s game on CBS and online or on any mobile device through the CBS Sports app. Ian Eagle (play-by-play) and Bill Raftery (analysis) will have the call.
Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp describing the action.
Tennessee (20-6, 9-4 SEC) is fresh off its sixth win in program history over a No. 1 ranked team, as the Vols defeated top-ranked Alabama on Wednesday at Thompson-Boling Arena, 68-59. The Vols have now won five straight games over top-five teams, including two this season.
Making his second career start, sophomore forward Jonas Aidoo recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, also tallying three blocks. Zakai Zeigler and Santiago Vescovi tied for the team lead in scoring with 15 points, while Zeigler had eight assists and Vescovi had eight rebounds.
Saturday’s game in Lexington marks the second meeting of the season between Tennessee and Kentucky, as the Wildcats came away with the victory in Knoxville on Jan. 14. The Vols have won three of their past five games at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena.
Up next, is back on the road for a rematch of last year’s SEC Tournament championship game against Texas A&M on Tuesday in College Station. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
• Tennessee trails the all-time series with Kentucky, 159-77, dating to 1910.
• The Vols have won eight of the last 14 meetings overall.
• The Wildcats have a 92-19 edge when the series is played in Lexington, but Tennessee has won three of the last five meetings at Rupp Arena.
• In four games against Kentucky as an upperclassman, Santiago Vescovi averages 15.0 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting .391 from 3-point range.
• In SEC road games, this season, Tennessee has not allowed the home team to reach the 70-point mark.
• The Vols occupy the No. 3 spot in the NCAA’s NET ratings after holding steady at No. 2 from Jan. 3 through Feb. 8. Tennessee has six quad 1 wins.
• Tennessee joins Kansas State and Iowa State as the only teams in the country that own at least three wins over teams currently ranked in the top 10 of the NET ratings.
• During SEC play, Tennessee leads the league in scoring defense (58.6 ppg), assists per game (16.1) and assist/turnover ratio (1.44).
• Zakai Zeigler has four points/assists double-doubles this season, which rank second in program history for a career—Rodney Woods had five from 1972-75.
• With its triumph over Alabama Wednesday, Tennessee became one of only 17 Division I programs to own at least six all-time wins over AP No. 1-ranked opponents.
• For the 12th straight week, the Volunteers own the best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country per KenPom, allowing only 85.8 points per 100 possessions.
• Tennessee owns Division I’s best field-goal percentage defense (.355) and 3-point defense (.247) along with the nation’s third-best scoring defense (56.4 ppg).
• 11 times this season, the Vols have held their opponents to 50 points or less.
• Only four teams have reached the 70-point mark against these Vols.
• Only six opposing players have scored 20 or more points against the Vols this season.
• Tennessee has trailed at the break only five times this season and is outscoring its opponents 34.0 ppg to 26.0 ppg in first-half action (+8.0 ppg).
• Kentucky (17-9, 8-5 SEC) snapped a two-game losing streak with a 71-68 win at Mississippi State Wednesday.
• Even with its recent two-game skid, the Wildcats have won seven of their past nine SEC games after starting 1-3 in conference play.
• Kentucky, currently ranked No. 40 in the NET, is 2-7 in Quadrant 1 games this season—the lone wins coming at Tennessee on Jan. 14 and at Mississippi State on Wednesday.
• The Wildcats are 12-3 inside Rupp Arena this season—with losses to South Carolina, Kansas and Arkansas.
• Reigning unanimous National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe has continued his dominant play this season. Tshiebwe leads the team in scoring (15.8 ppg), rebounding (13.3 rpg) and blocks (1.0 bpg).
• Tshiebwe’s 13.2 rebounds per game lead all Division I players. Tshiebwe also ranks fourth among all Division I players with 15 double-doubles this season.
• During SEC play, Tshiebwe is averaging a league-leading 13.7 rebounds per game as well as 15.6 points per game, which ranks fourth in the conference.
• Illinois State transfer guard Antonio Reeves has also made a large impact for the Wildcats this season, ranking second on the team with a 13.2 points per game average and shooting .421 from 3-point range. Reeves has scored in double figures during 11 of Kentucky’s last 12 games.
• According to KenPom, Kentucky is ranked 17th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency and 101st in adjusted defensive efficiency.
• Fifth-ranked Tennessee fell to Kentucky, 63-56, on Jan. 14, 2023, at Thompson-Boling Arena.
• Tennessee brought the game back to a tie with 5:50 remaining, but a late Kentucky run provided distance that helped the Wildcats fend off a six-point scoring run by the Volunteers with just over a minute left. The Vols could not get the elusive equalizer to fall, as multiple driving layups rattled in and out of the tin late.
• UK capitalized on strong rebounding, besting the Vols 43-23 on the boards. Despite being out-rebounded, Tennessee found its offensive stride in the paint, doubling up the Wildcats, 36-18.
• Uros Plavsic answered the bell in the post, dropping a career-high 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting. He did so largely battling Kentucky big Oscar Tshiebwe, a physical matchup on both ends of the floor.
• Santiago Vescovi finished with 13 points and a game-high four steals.
• The Vols roared out of the blocks, starting the game on an 8-0 run for the first four and a half minutes of play. Kentucky countered with a 13-2 run of its own. A 12-3 UK run in the final four minutes of the half gave the Cats a 33-26 lead at the break.
• Antonio Reeves led Kentucky with 18 points, while Tshiebwe totaled 15 points and 13 rebounds.
• With the loss, Tennessee saw its 25-game home win streak come to an end.
• 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 236 times over the years.
• No program in college basketball has logged more wins over Kentucky than Tennessee (77).
• The Vols have beaten the Wildcats just six times at Rupp Arena, posting victories in 1977, 1979, 1999, 2006, 2018, 2020 and 2021. Half of those wins have taken place during the Barnes era.
• Kentucky is one of only two SEC schools (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.
• On Saturday, John Calipari will coach his 36th career game against the Vols. No active collegiate head coach has faced Tennessee more.
• Since Calipari returned to the college game in 2000-01 with Memphis, Tennessee has dealt him 15 losses. No team has more wins over Calipari-coached teams during that span.
• Since Rick Barnes‘ arrival on Rocky Top (2015), the border rivalry with the Kentucky Wildcats has been recharged in a major way.
• Barnes has led the Volunteers to a 10-8 overall record against the Wildcats, including at least one win in each of the last seven seasons.
• Since current UK coach John Calipari has been in Lexington, Tennessee is the only program to have logged wins over Kentucky for seven straight seasons.
• Tennessee is the first program to defeat Kentucky at least once for seven straight seasons since the Vols beat the Wildcats in seven straight years from 1979-85. Alabama managed an eight-year win streak over UK from 1978-85. The Vols could match that this season.
• Spanning the first eight years of the Barnes era at UT, the Vols are 5-3 against Kentucky in Knoxville, 3-4 vs. the Cats in Lexington and 2-1 against UK in neutral-site clashes at the SEC Tournament.
• From 1995-2015—a period that spanned the tenures of six UT head coaches—Tennessee’s record against Kentucky was a combined 9-33, including a 7-26 mark against ranked UK squads.
• The Vols under Rick Barnes are 10-8 vs. Kentucky over eight seasons, with a 9-5 record against ranked UK teams.
• For five of UT’s Barnes-era wins over the Wildcats, Kentucky was ranked in the top five of the AP Top 25.
• 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 785. Rick Barnes is a close second with 774 victories to his credit.
• Among all active Division I head coaches, Calipari and Barnes rank tied for fourth and sixth, respectively, in total head coaching wins. See chart on Page 11.
• Barnes and Calipari became friends while working a Pitt basketball camp in the late 1970s. The star player at that camp? Current Xavier head coach Sean Miller.
• The Vols in January achieved the best defensive efficiency rating in the 22-year history of analytics guru Ken Pomeroy’s website, KenPom.com, at 80.6.
• Tennessee still leads the nation in KenPom’s defensive efficiency at 85.8 points per 100 possessions.
• Tennessee’s scoring defense of 56.4 ppg is the third-best in the country, trailing only Houston and North Texas.
• The Vols lead the country in 3-point percentage defense (.247) by a wide margin. Alabama is second with a percentage of .263. Since at least 1999-2000, no Division I team has held its opponents under 25 percent shooting from 3-point range over the course of an entire season.
• Tennessee has held 13 of 26 opponents to 33 percent shooting or worse.
• The Vols average 30.7 deflections and 18.3 points off turnovers per game.
• Alabama’s Brandon Miller is a National Freshman of the Year contender and projected NBA Lottery Pick.
• He was held to 15 points on 4-for-11 shooting during UT’s 68-59 win on Feb. 15 in Knoxville.
• When Miller was guarded by Jahmai Mashack, Miller was 0-for-6 from the field with four points. Against other defenders, Miller scored 11 on 4-of-5 shooting.

Vols C Uros Plavsic / Credit: UT Athletics

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