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HomeSports#8 Tennessee Vols takes on #4 Kentucky in SEC Tournament Semifinals

#8 Tennessee Vols takes on #4 Kentucky in SEC Tournament Semifinals

#8 Tennessee vs. #4 Kentucky

Saturday, March 16th, 2019| 2:30pm CT
Nashville, TN | Bridgestone Arena | ESPN

Tennessee Volunteers - UT VolsNashville, TN – The No. 8 Tennessee Vols is set for a rematch of last year’s tournament championship, taking on No. 4 Kentucky in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament on Saturday, March 16th.

The game will tip at approximately 2:30pm CT and will be televised on ESPN and can also be viewed online through WatchESPN. Fans can listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp describing the action.

Tennessee (28-4, 15-3 SEC) claimed the No. 3 seed in the tournament and earned a double bye.

Tennessee Men's Basketball faces the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday afternoon in the SEC Tournament semifinals at Bridgestone Arena. (UT Athletics)

The Tennessee Vols are one of the favorites to win the championship and have the opportunity to earn a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. UT defeated Mississippi State, 83-76, in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals for the second year in a row.

Earlier this week, Grant Williams became just the 10th player in conference history to win SEC Player of the Year in back-to-back season and was the first since Arkansas’ Corliss Williamson did so in 1994 and 1995. Williams was also tabbed first-team All-SEC after finishing the regular season as the top scorer in the SEC with 19.3 points per game. He has been one of the nation’s most versatile and reliable players this season, averaging 7.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.

Senior wing Admiral Schofield earned first-team All-SEC recognition from the coaches after averaging 16.3 points per game, which ranked second on the team and fifth in the SEC, to go along with 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Jordan Bone rounded out the Vols’ All-SEC performers, earning a nod on the second team by both the coaches and the AP. The junior point guard led the SEC in assists per game (6.1), ranked second in assist/turnover ratio (3.0) and seventh in field-goal percentage (.475).

Tennessee and Kentucky split the two matchups during the regular season, with both teams winning on their home court. The Wildcats are the No. 2 seed in the tournament and advanced with a 73-55 victory over Alabama in the quarterfinals.

The Series

Tennessee trails the all-time series with Kentucky, 155-72, dating to 1910.

The Wildcats have a 12-4 edge when the teams meet in the SEC Tournament.

A Win Would

Give Tennessee its second SEC Tournament Championship Game appearance in as many years. The Vols have not won the tournament since 1979.

Give Tennessee 29 wins this season, the second-most victories in program history.

Signal the most victories by a Rick Barnes-coached team since his 2007-08 Texas squad finished 31-7.

Make the Vols 4-2 against rival Kentucky over the last two seasons.


This is the second straight year that the Vols have faced Kentucky at the SEC Tournament. Last year in St. Louis, they met in the championship game.

Two of Tennessee’s four losses this season have come in overtime, and all four were away from home against opponents who are currently ranked in the AP Top 25.

For the first time in program history, Tennessee has spent the entire season ranked in the top 10 of the AP Top 25.

The Vols will finish this season with no more than six losses.

Tennessee’s final average home attendance of 19,034 ranks fourth nationally.

Tennessee is 54-13 (.806) since the start of last season.

Starting point guard Jordan Bone is a Nashville native. In his last four games, he has 25 assists and just four turnovers (6.3 assist/turnover ratio).

About the Kentucky Wildcats

John Calipari’s squad has been playing the best basketball of any team in the country as of late, winning 17 of its last 19 games. In non-conference play, UK logged ranked wins over North Carolina, Louisville and Kansas. Kentucky dropped its first matchup of the SEC slate but responded by winning its next nine.

Sophomore forward PJ Washington (14.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.2 bpg) has inserted himself into the National Player of the Year conversation with his impressive play. As the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, Washington has scored at least 20 points in 10 games and has recorded eight double-doubles.

SEC Freshman of the Year Keldon Johnson (13.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.7 apg) gave the Vols fits in the first matchup with 19 points. He is one of several talented freshmen on the team. The backcourt duo of Ashton Hagans (7.6 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.4 rpg, 1.8 spg) and Tyler Herro (14.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.1 spg) leads Kentucky in assists and steals per game and has been crucial in the maturation of the team.

In a freshman class that featured multiple guards, UK needed some depth in the frontcourt and landed graduate transfer forward and All-Pac 12 performer Reid Travis (11.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, .520 FG%) from Stanford. Travis also brings much-needed experience to the Wildcats, who also returned several pieces from last season’s SEC Tournament Championship squad.

Series History & Notes

The Kentucky series is UT’s oldest and most-played among SEC opponents. The Vols and Wildcats first met on February 5th, 1910, and have clashed 227 times over the years.

On 12 different occasions—first in 1950 and most recently on March 2nd—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 (72).

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.

Tennessee Vols Have 10 Wins Against Calipari 2.0

Since UK coach John Calipari returned to the college game in 2000-01, Tennessee has dealt him 10 losses. No team has more wins over Calipari-coached teams during that span.

Tennessee Vols Last Meeting vs. Kentucky

In front of the sellout Thompson-Boling Arena crowd, No. 7 Tennessee powered past No. 4 Kentucky, 71-52, on March 2nd, 2019, to move into a two-way tie for first place in the SEC.

It was the largest loss for the Wildcats in conference play since February 4th, 2017, when they lost by 22 points to Florida.

Backed by a career-high performance from Bob Cousy Award candidate Jordan Bone, the Vols maintained a perfect home record against the Wildcats in the Rick Barnes era while extending their home winning streak to 25 games.

Bone scored a career-high 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting while knocking down all five of his attempts from behind the arc. He eclipsed his previous high on the final Tennessee shot of the game, hitting a 3-pointer falling away into the student section with 12 seconds left on the clock.

National Player of the Year candidate Grant Williams added 24 points to go along with a game-high seven rebounds. Combined, Williams and Bone tallied 51 points, shooting 18-of-28 (64.3 percent) from the field.

Tennessee held the Wildcats to a season-low 52 points and 31.8 percent shooting from the field while limiting them to just 10 points in the paint, outscoring Kentucky by 18 points on the block.

Within the first four minutes of the second half, Tennessee stretched its 13-point halftime lead to 20 points, getting to the rim on four of its first five field goals. The 10-4 run was capped by a fastbreak up-and-under finish from Lamonté Turner to push it to a 47-27 edge with 16:17 left in the game.

Turner finished with a team-high six assists, with five coming in the final 20 minutes of the game.

Memorable Tennessee Vols Performances Against Kentucky

Junior point guard Jordan Bone scored a career-high 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting while leading Tennessee to an upset of fourth-ranked Kentucky on March 2nd, 2019, at Thompson-Boling Arena. Bone knocked down all five of his attempts from behind the 3-point arc. He eclipsed his previous high on the final Tennessee shot of the game, hitting a 3-pointer falling away into the student section with 12 seconds left on the clock. Tennessee held the Wildcats to a season-low 52 points and 31.8 percent shooting from the field in the 71-52 triumph.

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, February 2nd, 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 February 7th, 2006.

Beating the Wildcats was three times as nice during the 1978-79 season. UT notched program win No. 900 in Lexington on January 20th, 66-55, before topping UK 101-84 in Knoxville on February 17th.

Then the Vols won the 1979 SEC Tournament with a 75-69 win over UK in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 3rd. 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 January 13th, 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 = 1,300+ 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 705. Rick Barnes is a close second with 689 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.


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