Here at Thompson-Boling Arena for the Wildcats and Volunteers, Part 2.
Last time I was here, Jodie Meeks dropped 54 points on Tennessee. Nothing like history happening on deadline.
Today it’s a noon start, and the timing is a bit tricky for Kentucky, which has had only one light practice since finishing its win over South Carolina in Lexington at about 11 p.m. Thursday night.
Bruce Pearl is 20-14 against ranked teams at UT, but the Vols are 2-4 against ranked teams this season. They beat No. 1 Kansas 76-68 here on Jan. 10 and beat Ole Miss when the Rebels were ranked.
Interesting things about the UT schedule — they’ve played three teams in the running for No. 1 seeds — Kentucky, Purdue and Kansas.
Keys to the game don’t really ever change for Kentucky — pound the ball inside, try to make the UT interior players work well on defense. Also, UT leads the SEC in three-point defense.
In the meeting in Lexington, Bruce Pearl threw UK a curve ball with a 3-2 zone and it took the Wildcats three-quarters of the game to solve it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bring it out again, with some other new wrinkles, knowing that UK has had little preparation time while UT has been practicing for this game since Tuesday.
One thing that still needs to happen for UK is that John Wall needs to begin to emerge as a take-over type player. UK is so good inside that the lane often seems clogged, but the Wildcats need to find a way to clear it out from time to time to let Wall get to the rim. Right now he’s picking his spots to do it, but that means against better defensive teams he may not have any spots to do it. The offense needs to find him some.
Should be a good one today in Knoxville. It’s not a must-win for the Wildcats. Even a loss doesn’t take them out of a No. 1 seed. But a win pretty much solidifies them in that spot, and proves something about the team’s toughness and mental state just a week away from the end of the regular season.
— In SEC play, UK is shooting .455 from the field and .309 from three-point range.
— UK freshman DeMarcus Cousins is averaging a double-double, 17.2 points and 10.8 rebounds, in SEC play.
— Tennessee’s turnover margin of +4.1 ranks second in the SEC and 10th nationally.
— Tennessee leads the SEC in 3-point defense, holding opponents to .299 shooting from beyond the arc.
Follow live updates from the game today via Twitter @ericcrawford