Special thanks to Academy Sports + Outdoors for presenting our pregame Keys to Victory for each game this season.
The No. 13/11 Kentucky Wildcats (20-5, 10-2 Southeastern Conference) take on the Tennessee Volunteers (14-11, 6-6 SEC) in a battle between two of the youngest teams in college basketball. The Cats will look to avenge their 82-80 loss to the Vols in Knoxville, while Tennessee, with an RPI of 46, will battle to improve its NCAA Tournament chances.
Meet the Tennessee Volunteers
The head coach – After 17 successful seasons at Texas, Rick Barnes is in his second season leading the Volunteer basketball program. Winner of 633 college basketball games, Barnes has led three programs to the NCAA Tournament, beginning with Providence, where he coached for six seasons (1988-94) and went to three NCAA tournaments.
Barnes left Providence to take the Clemson job, a position he held for four seasons, breathing life into the Atlantic Coast Conference school by leading the Tigers to three straight NCAA tourneys, including a Sweet 16 in 1997.
The 62-year-old Barnes parlayed his success at Clemson with an opportunity to lead the Texas Longhorns. In Austin, Barnes enjoyed tremendous success, posting a 402-180 record (.691) on his way to 15 NCAA Tournament appearances, including two trips to the Elite 8 (2006, 2008) and one to the Final Four (2004).
A native of Hickory, North Carolina, Barnes won 20-plus games in 15 of his 17 seasons at Texas, and 30-plus games twice. He was recognized as the Big 12 Coach of the Year four times (1999, 2003, 2008, 2014) and received the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in 2009.
Barnes led the rebuilding Vols to a 15-19 record last season.
The BasicsWhat: Tennessee (14-11, 6-6 SEC) vs. No. 13/11 Kentucky (20-5, 10-2 SEC)
When: Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Rupp Arena (23,000)
Game notes: UT | UK | SEC
Digital guide: Tennessee
TV/Radio CoverageTV: ESPN
Satellite radio (Sirius/XM): 83/190
Online audio: All-access
Live stats: Game Center
Live stream: WatchESPN
Tennessee VolunteersRecord: 14-11, 6-6 SEC
Head coach: Rick Barnes (29-30 at Tennessee)
Player to watch: Robert Hubbs III (14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
Series history: UK leads, 152-69
Last meeting: UT won, 82-80 (Jan. 24, 2017)
Pregame LinksQuotes: Coach Cal’s pre-Tennessee media opportunity
Quotes: Mulder, Humphries previewing Vols-Cats
Feature: Calipari zeroing in on disappearing leads
Preview: Kentucky looks to avenge first SEC loss versus Tennessee
Keys to victory: Tennessee
Podcast: Previewing Alabama, Tennessee and the bracket
The players – The Vols are stacked with young talent and boast a nine-player rotation (seven of which are freshmen or sophomores), with only 6-foot-5 senior guard Robert Hubbs III, at 32.0 minutes per game, averaging more than 24.5 minutes of playing time.
Hubbs leads Tennessee in scoring at 14.3 points per game and is the Vols’ second leading rebounder, pulling down 5.0 boards per game. While the 3-point shot is an important part of the UT offense, Hubbs is not a strong shooter from distance, making only 3-of-22 shots from range on the year (13.6 percent). Inside the arc, Hubbs is nailing 51.7 percent of his shot attempts (136-263). He’s a player Barnes likes to see with the ball in his hands late in a close game, as he has made 76-of-91 free throws on the season (83.5 percent). In Tennessee’s victory over UK at Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 24, Hubbs torched the Cats for 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and went 7 for 10 at the free-throw line. He also grabbed a team-high tying seven rebounds.
Six-five forward Grant Williams, the reigning SEC Co-Freshman of the Week, checks in with 12.5 points and a team-best 5.5 rebounds per game on a squad that has only two healthy players taller than 6-5. Like Hubbs, Williams is money from inside the arc, connecting on 101-of-179 shots (56.4 percent). Williams, on a squad lacking length, provides Tennessee with a physical, hard-nosed presence on the low block. He leads the Vols in offensive rebounds per contest (2.6) and blocked shots (1.9). Williams is coming off a career-high tying 30 points in UT’s 76-75 loss to Georgia on Saturday. He had 13 points, six rebounds, six assists, four blocks, three steals and no turnovers in the first meeting between Kentucky and Tennessee.
Kyle Alexander, a 6-10 sophomore forward, has only been playing basketball for four years, but has shown great strides during his time at UT. Starting and playing 14.2 minutes per contest, the Ontario, Canada, native scores 3.7 points per contest and pulls down 4.1 boards. Alexander has scored in double-figures only once on the season, but he’s hit 50 percent of his shots for the year. He’s second on the team in blocks with 1.1 swats per outing. The big man started but played only three minutes against UK last time out.
Admiral Schofield, a 6-4 sophomore wing, accounts for 7.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game. Another strong scorer inside the arc, Schofield is making 56.0 percent of his 2-point shots on the year (42-75). Schofield has upped his game in SEC action, averaging 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. In the two team’s earlier contest, Schofield had an outstanding game with 15 points and seven boards.
Lew Evans, a 6-7 forward, comes to Tennessee as a grad transfer from Utah State. Evans plays 14.0 minutes per contest and contributes 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds, adding a touch of depth to the UT frontcourt. In 23 minutes versus UK in January, Evans scored eight points and made one 3-pointer.
Six-three freshman guard Jordan Bowden accounts for 8.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game in 23.1 minutes of floor time. On the year, he has made 32-of-99 shots from distance (32.3 percent).
Six-one freshman guard Jordan Bone is second on the team in assists, averaging 3.1 dimes per outing to go along with 7.1 points. Bone missed nine games between Nov. 22 and Dec. 22 with a stress fracture in his left foot. UK did a good job of limiting Bone’s effectiveness earlier in the year (two points on 1-of-7 shooting).
Barnes brings two young but productive guards off the bench in the form of 6-0 freshman Lamonté Turner and 6-3 sophomore guard Shembari Phillips.
In 21.2 minutes per game, Turner nets 8.8 points and a team-high 3.2 assists per contest. He adds strong perimeter shooting to the Vols’ roster as he has made 36 of 96 from distance on the year (37.5 percent). Against the Cats, Turner hit 2-of-4 shots from distance on his way to 10 points. He also crashed the boards, pulling down seven rebounds.
Phillips is also capable of lighting up the scoreboard from beyond the arc, as he has made half of his 28 3-point attempts. In 18.9 minutes of play, Phillips averages 5.7 points and 2.8 boards per game.
Crash the boards – In Knoxville, Kentucky “won” the rebounding battle against the undersized Vols by just one rebound.
Hubbs at 6-5, Schofield at 6-4 and Turner at 6-0, all snagged seven rebounds against the Cats.
If UK is to come away victorious tonight, the Cats must hit the glass as a team, particularly the Wildcat guards, as De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk combined to grab three rebounds in a combined 62 minutes of action.
Kentucky must put a body on the UT perimeter board crashers and take control of the glass or risk losing its second game of the season to Barnes’ ever-improving club.
Turn UT shooters into drivers – UT does not have several players that score consistently from the outside. As a team, the Vols attempt 17.6 3-pointers per game and make 6.0. Not normally numbers to cause concern, but when looking at the difference in 3-point field goal percentages in UT’s wins versus its losses reveals a startling gap.
With Kentucky holding a sizeable advantage in length, Tennessee will likely look to create open 3-point looks in both the half court and off the fast break, meaning the Cats have to keep their hands up and challenge shots from distance. Allowing the UT shooters to become comfortable and confident could spell trouble for the Wildcats. In Knoxville, the Vols made 5-10 shots from beyond the arc on their way to the victory.
Take care of the basketball – In Tennessee’s two-point win in Knoxville, UK turned the ball over 14 times, resulting in 19 points for the Vols. In a one possession contest, Kentucky’s loose play with the basketball proved deadly.
Tonight, Kentucky has to remember to not force the action by making ill-advised passes, or make the hard pass when the easy pass is the play to make.
Bam Adebayo vs. UT’s interior defense – With Tennessee’s lack of size down low, Adebayo should be the recipient of a steady stream of post feeds.
Last time out against the Vols, Adebayo was nearly unstoppable, making 7-of-8 shots on his way to 21 points. Many of those shots were dunks and power moves to the rim, something he should utilize again in Tuesday’s game.
A by-product of UT’s lack of size in the paint could also result in some nice inside-out action, as UT is likely to double-team Adebayo on the catch, possibly clearing the way for cuts to the basket by the guards, or opening up clean perimeter looks.
With Adebayo’s unselfishness and ability to pass the ball effectively, UK should reap the benefits of post feeds against the Vols.
Adebayo, in his only negative stat against Tennessee in Knoxville, grabbed just five rebounds. Calipari is stressing that he wants Adebayo in double figures on the glass and it is an area he must improve on tonight by dedicating himself to keeping the Vols off the boards.
|FG percent defense||43.0||42.6|
|3-point percent defense||32.0||34.5|
|Steals per game||6.4||5.8|
|Blocks per game||5.8||4.7|
|Assists per game||16.8||14.7|
|Kenpom.com adjusted offensive efficiency rank||7||51|
|Kenpom.com adjusted defensive efficiency rank||18||49|
|Points per game||Malik Monk (21.7)||Robert Hubbs III (14.3)|
|Rebounds per game||Bam Adebayo (6.9)||Grant Williams (5.5)|
|Field-goal percent||Bam Adebayo (60.3)||Grant Williams (54.0)|
|3-point percent||Malik Monk (41.4)||Shembari Phillips (50.0)|
|Free-throw percent||Dominique Hawkins (85.2)||Robert Hubbs III (83.5)|
|Assists per game||De’Aaron Fox (5.4)||Lamonté Turner (3.2)|
|Blocks per game||Bam Adebayo (1.6)||Grant Williams (1.9)|
|Steals per game||De’Aaron Fox (1.6)||Jordan Bowden (1.0)|
The Super Tuesday tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Check back with CoachCal.com as Metz Camfield will have complete coverage as the Cats look for some payback against the Vols.
Kentucky looks to avenge first SEC loss versus Tennessee