The No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats (16-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) travel to Knoxville, Tenn., this weekend to take on the Tennessee Volunteers in what is a huge game for both teams every year. First-year UT head coach Cuonzo Martin, who played his college ball at Purdue, has the undermanned Vols sitting at 8-8, 1-1 in the SEC, and playing inspired basketball.
So as the Cats get ready to rumble in Thompson-Boling Arena, let’s take a look at the history of the UK-UT rivalry, examine a few of the great Wildcat performances and see statistically how the Cats are performing in the SEC.
Kentucky has played Tennessee more than any other school in the nation, a total of 212 times. The Cats hold a solid series advantage, 146-66, but the 66 wins UT has is the most of any school against Kentucky.
The Wildcats have won three straight, six of seven and 17 of the last 21 contests.
In Knoxville, since 1990, UK has won 13 times and lost nine.
- In Knoxville, Jodie Meeks set UK’s single-season scoring record against the Vols with 54 points in January of 2009 (more on that later).
- Mike Phillips grabbed an otherworldly 28 rebounds against UT in January of 1976, the most of any Cat versus the Vols.
- Roger Harden, in February of 1985, set the UK record for most assists against UT with 12.
- John Pelphrey (January 1990), Nazr Mohammed (February 1998) and Perry Stevenson (January 2008) all blocked five shots against Tennessee, setting the Kentucky standard for blocks against the Vols.
- On the way to his school-record 54 points, Meeks made 10 3-point shots, the most of any Cat versus Tennessee.
- Melvin Turpin, in January of 1983, made a series record 18 shots against Tennessee.
Ironically, two of the greatest offensive performances in Kentucky basketball history took place in Knoxville. First, Turpin dropped 42 points on the Vols at UT’s Stokely Center in 1983, and years later Meeks pour in 54 points at Thompson-Boling Arena in 2009.
Turpin, who was one of the best big man shooters in UK history, led the No. 10-ranked Cats into Knoxville on Jan. 31, 1983. What followed was one of the great individual performances ever by a Wildcat.
Making shots from all over the floor — in the paint, at the elbow, on the baseline — it didn’t seem to matter where Big Mel shot from; the ball went through the net. At evening’s end, Turpin had connected on 18-of-22 shots, grabbed 12 rebounds, blocked four shots, and was the only Wildcat who registered a double-figure scoring night, as he put up 42 of his team’s 63 points in a 65-63 UK setback.
Later, in talking with the Courier-Journal’s C. Ray Hall, UK center Sam Bowie said this about Turpin and how he dealt with his huge night: “By the time we got on the airplane to head over to Alabama, he was already asleep. Any other individual, including myself — when you score 42, it’s human nature for your ego and your blood to be flowing. There’s no way you sleep. You would be kind of bragging … but Melvin was never one of those types of guys to get too high on a good performance, and when he had a poor performance, that didn’t affect him, either.”
Twenty-six years later, Meeks set the new single-game scoring standard for UK as he dusted the Volunteers with his historical 54-point night, breaking Dan Issel’s 39-year Kentucky record of 53 points.
For those who watched the game, it was almost surreal to see Meeks so tuned-in, so focused and so down-right accurate from all over the court. In the end, Meeks made 15-of-22 shots from the floor and an astonishing 10-of-15 3-point tries. He was perfect from the line, making 14-of-14 free throws.
UK buried the Vols in that game, 90-72, with Meeks, like Turpin, being the only double-digit Wildcat scorer. Meeks, UK’s latest hardwood hero, said after the game, “I was just trying to play to win. I was more concerned with Tennessee trying to make a run and doing anything I could to help my teammates and get a win. It just so happened it was me that made big shots. I had a couple of inches of space so I kept shooting and they went in.”
Kentucky’s stats in the SEC
Darius Miller – Miller is averaging 6.5 points per game on 4-of-12 shooting (33.3 percent) … He’s making 42.9 percent of his 3-point attempts (3 of 7) … Darius is perfect from the free-throw line in league play, making both of his charity stripe attempts … He is averaging 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest in an average of 21.5 minutes of action.
Terrence Jones – Jones leads the Cats in scoring in SEC play with 16.0 points per game, and he’s making 65.0 percent of this shots from the field (13 of 20) … He has attempted four 3-point shots, making one … From the free-throw line, Jones has made 5 of 7, good for 71.4 percent … He’s averaging 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in an average of 32.0 minutes of play.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – MKG is averaging 8.0 points per SEC contest on 5-of-15 shooting from the floor (33.3 percent) … He has yet to connect on a 3-pointer in four attempts … He’s 6 of 8 from the free throw line (75.0 percent) … MKG is averaging 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game in 33.5 minutes per game.
Doron Lamb – UK’s sharpshooter is averaging 12.0 points per contest on 50.0 percent field-goal shooting (6 of 12), as well as 50.0 percent 3-point shooting (4 of 8) … Lamb has made 8 of 10 from the free-throw line (80.0 percent) … He is averaging 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per contest in 31.5 minutes of action.
Anthony Davis – Davis is averaging 13.0 points per contest on 11-of-19 shooting (57.9 percent) … Davis has yet to miss a free throw in SEC play, having made 4 of 4 from the charity stripe … He’s averaging a team-high 8.0 rebounds per game to go along with 5.5 blocks and 2.5 steals per contest in 33.5 minutes of play.
Marquis Teague – UK’s point guard is second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.5 points, while making 10-of-21 shots from the field (47.6 percent) and 3-of-4 3-point tries (75.0 percent) … He has also been hot from the free throw line, making 6 of 7 in league play (85.7 percent) … Teague is averaging 3.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game, in a team-high 35.5 floor minutes.
Kyle Wiltjer – Wiltjer is averaging 2.5 points per SEC contest, making 2 of 6 from the field and 1of 3 from long range in an average of 6.0 minutes of play.
Eloy Vargas – Vargas is averaging 1.0 point per game on 1-of-1 shooting in an average of 6.5 minutes.
Tipoff is schedule for noon ET with television by ESPN. Stay tuned to CoachCal.com as Eric Lindsey and UK assistant coach John Robic will be along with a comprehensive scouting report on Tennessee.