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HomeSports#11 Tennessee Vols Basketball faces Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena, Saturday

#11 Tennessee Vols Basketball faces Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena, Saturday

#11/#10 Tennessee (12-4 | 5-4 SEC) at Kentucky (5-11 | 4-5 SEC)

Saturday, February 6th, 2021 | 7:05pm CT
Lexington, KY | Rupp Arena | TV: ESPN

Tennessee Volunteers - UT VolsLexington, KY – The 11th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers basketball team remains on the road for a Saturday, February 6th showdown with SEC foe, Kentucky. The opening tip from Rupp Arena is slated for 7:00pm CT on ESPN.

Fans can catch Tuesday’s game on ESPN and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Bob Wischusen and Dick Vitale will have the call.

Tennessee Men's Basketball travels to Lexington for showdown against Kentucky. (UT Athletics)
Tennessee Men’s Basketball travels to Lexington for showdown against Kentucky. (UT Athletics)

Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertlekamp describing the action.

Last time out, Tennessee dropped a hard-fought road contest with Ole Miss, 52-50. The Vols were led in scoring for the fourth consecutive game by senior Yves Pons, who scored 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Pons also reeled in four rebounds and recorded a steal.

A victory on Saturday would be the Vols second consecutive victory at Rupp Arena and would be the Orange & White’s sixth win in their last nine tries against the Wildcats.

The Series

Tennessee trails the all-time series with Kentucky, 156-74, dating to 1910.

The Wildcats have a 91-18 edge when the series is played in Lexington.

Overall, the Vols have won five of their last eight games vs. Kentucky.

Tennessee will host the Wildcats in Knoxville in two weeks on February 20th.

A Win Would

Be Tennessee’s sixth victory in its last nine games against Kentucky.

Be UT’s seventh all-time win at Rupp Arena.

Make Rick Barnes the only active head coach to lead his team to at least three victories at Rupp Arena.

Make seniors John Fulkerson and Yves Pons the first Vols to play/appear in three wins at Rupp Arena.

Layup Lines

Kentucky big man Olivier Sarr is one of Yves Pons’ closest friends. Both grew up in France, and they often played against one another before becoming teammates at INSEP Academy and on the French National Team.

Pons is averaging a team-best 15.8 points while shooting .632 from the field and .467 from 3-point range (7-15) over the last four games.

Last week, Pons was named a top-10 finalist for the Julius Erving Award and one of 15 candidates for Naismith Men’s Defensive Player of the Year.



Tennessee is No. 13 in the latest NCAA NET ratings, with four wins over teams in the top 30.

Tennessee dominated #15 Kansas last Saturday for an 80-61, wire-to-wire win that clinched the SEC/Big 12 Challenge for the SEC (5-4).

The Volunteers have been outscored 25-0 on fast-break points over the last two games.

Over its last two games, Tennessee is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range (16 for 32).

Defense Wins

Tennessee ranks sixth in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing just 58.9 points per game.

According to KenPom, the Vols lead the NCAA in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 86.0 points per 100 possessions. College teams typically average close to 70 possessions per game.

The Vols are forcing 16.1 turnovers per game while converting those turnovers into 17.3 points per game. Tennessee’s turnover margin stands at +4.6 (11th nationally).

Tennessee has forced 13 of 16 opponents to turn the ball over on 20 percent or more of their possessions.

Tennessee has allowed only one opposing player to score 20 points all season.

Reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons has 20 blocks through UT’s first nine SEC games. Pons has 100 blocks in his last 47 games.


About the Kentucky Wildcats

At the midway point of the 2020-21 season, Kentucky is in the midst of an uncharacteristic season. Through 16 games, the Wildcats are 5-11 and 4-5 in SEC play and have dropped five of their last six contests.

Despite the rough road, UK boasts an immensely talented crop of newcomers, led by freshman forward Isaiah Jackson. Jackson has been a do-it-all performer, leading the team and ranking eighth in the SEC in rebounding with 7.1 per game, while averaging an incredible 3.0 blocks per game. That average leads the team, the SEC, and ranks sixth in the nation. Jackson has also been solid on the score sheet, contributing close to seven points per game.

Another versatile producer for Kentucky has been senior Olivier Sarr. An alum of France’s INSEP Academy (like UT forward Yves Pons), Sarr is Kentucky’s second-leading scorer (10.3 ppg), rebounder (5.6 rpg), and shot blocker (1.1 bpg), while playing just 23.8 minutes per night.

In the scoring department, UK has been led by freshman guard Brandon Boston Jr., who’s averaging 12.0 points per game and has scored in double figures in all but four games for the Wildcats.

Boston is also Kentucky’s third-leading rebounder, averaging 5.3 boards per game, and he leads the team in steals, averaging 1.3 per contest (21 total).

A little-known fact about the University of Kentucky’s women’s basketball program (started in 1902) is that it predates the storied men’s program, which was formed a year later in 1903. A key difference is that the women’s team did not become an official varsity sport at UK until 1974.


Tennessee’s Last Game Against Kentucky

A career-high 27 points from junior John Fulkerson, a massive 29-9 second-half run, and a dominant defensive effort in the final 20 minutes propelled Tennessee to an 81-73 comeback victory over sixth-ranked Kentucky on March 3rd, 2020, at Rupp Arena.

The win was Tennessee’s second in its last three trips to Lexington and made Rick Barnes the first UT coach ever to win multiple games at Rupp Arena.

The Vols trailed by as many as 17 points, marking the second time on the season UT came back to win when trailing by 15 or more. Tennessee’s 51 second-half points were the most the Vols scored in a half all season.

Entering the game, the last time Kentucky blew a lead of 17 or more points was when Barnes’ Vols erased a 21-point deficit to post an 84-77 triumph in Knoxville on February 2d, 2016. 

Fulkerson’s 27 points came on a career-high-tying 10 made field goals and a 7-of-7 effort from the foul line.

Josiah-Jordan James also was huge for the Vols, scoring all of his season-high 16 points in the second half. James finished 5-of-9 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3-point range while also pulling in seven rebounds and dishing off five assists.

SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons delivered a clutch performance on the offensive end, scoring 12 of his 15 points in the second half. Pons concluded the night 6-of-9 from the field and drilled all three of his 3-point attempts.

Junior Jalen Johnson came off the bench to help keep UT within striking distance in the first half, knocking down two 3-pointers to cut UK’s early 13-point lead to seven.

A balanced opening eight minutes had Kentucky holding a slim 14-11 lead at the under-12 media timeout. Fulkerson was on fire for the Vols, knocking down each of his first four field-goal attempts and scoring nine points.

Down the stretch of the opening half, the Wildcats briefly took control, increasing their lead to 42-31 at the halftime break. Kentucky continued to pour it on to begin the second half, stretching its advantage to 51-34 just three minutes in.

The Vols then responded with a 9-0 run, spearheaded by five points and an assist from James to cut the Wildcat lead to just eight points with 13:57 remaining.

The Vols later expanded their run to 29-9 during a 10-minute stretch with balanced scoring and a number of defensive stops to take a 63-60 advantage, which was their first lead since the 15:53 mark of the first half.

Other Memorable Tennessee Vol Performances Against Kentucky

Kevin Punter Jr.’s 27 points were the most scored by a Vol against 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.


Tennessee-Kentucky 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 230 times over the years.

No program in college basketball has logged more wins over Kentucky than Tennessee (74).

The Vols have beaten the Wildcats just six times at Rupp Arena, posting victories in 1977, 1979, 1999, 2006, 2018, and 2020.

Tennessee has 15 all-time wins over the Wildcats at Thompson-Boling Arena, including four straight between 2016-19.

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.

Saturday is only the 12th meeting in the series for which Tennessee is ranked in the AP top 25 and Kentucky is not. Kentucky holds a 7-4 edge in such matchups.

Rivalry Recharged

Since Rick Barnes‘ arrival on Rocky Top, the border rivalry with the Kentucky Wildcats has been recharged in a major way.

Barnes has led the Volunteers to a 7-5 overall record against the Wildcats, including at least one win in each of the last five seasons.

Since current UK head coach John Calipari has led the program in Lexington, Tennessee is the only program to have logged wins over Kentucky for five consecutive seasons. Tennessee is the first program to defeat Kentucky at least once for five straight seasons since Florida and North Carolina both did so from 2005-09.

Spanning the first five years of the Barnes era at UT, the Vols are 4-1 against Kentucky in Knoxville, 2-3 vs. the Cats in Lexington, and 1-1 against UK in neutral-site clashes at the SEC Tournament.

John Calipari Among Tennessee’s Most-Face Active Coaches

On Saturday, John Calipari will coach his 30th career game against the Vols. Among active college coaches, he has the most career meetings against Tennessee.

Coach   Meetings UT’s Record vs.
John Calipari 29 12-17
Tubby Smith 26 7-19
Frank Martin 14 10-4
Mark Gottfried 13 4-9


UT Vols Have Nine Wins Against Calipari 2.0

Since UK coach John Calipari returned to the college game in 2000-01, Tennessee has dealt him 12 losses. No team has more wins over Calipari-coached teams during that span.

Team Wins
Florida 8
Louisville 8
Auburn, Cincinnati, Kansas 5


Next Up For Tennessee Men’s Basketball

The Tennessee Volunteers basketball team returns to Knoxville for a rematch with the 22nd-ranked Florida Gators on Wednesday evening. Tipoff from Thompson-Boling Arena is slated for 6:00pm CT on ESPN2.


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