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Kentucky Wildcats vs. Tennessee: Gameday Breakdown

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UK v. UT Overview

Well sports-fans, the biggest game of the year is upon us, and it looks as if (on cue) Kentucky's Patrick Patterson will return to action against Tennessee (16-9, 7-4) in this afternoon's Titanic Struggle (1:00 EST).  The big man's injury-induced two-game hiatus resulted in UK (18-8, 7-4) being dominated on the boards versus Vanderbilt Tuesday night.  And with the long, athletic, and revenge-minded Volunteers invading Rupp today, his presence in the paint is mandatory if UK holds any hopes of bringing out the brooms, and potentially saving the season.

In this 'Cat fans opinion, Tennessee's 81-65 pasting at the hands of the Ole Miss Rebels Wednesday night may have been the result of UT looking past their opponent (no offense to the Rebs).  Because something tells me Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl will have his Vols "geeked-up," and prepared to silence Rupp.  And after Jodie Meeks' 54 point "NCAA Performance of the Year" in Knoxville back in January,  Pearl will surely be keen on the idea of putting the kibosh on UK's most potent offensive weapon.  A strategy that has seen UK's opponents experience some success with, over the last nine games.

We all know what's at stake, so let's get to the juice ...


Volunteer Personnel

Tyler Smith: 6'7" 215 lb junior forward -- Smith averages 17.6 points, 5.7 rebounds (1.8 off. rebs), and 3.5 assists per game ( versus 2.3 turnovers).  The talented transfer makes 47.3% of his shots, 30.4% of his threes (21-69), and 75.6% of his free throws.

In conference play only, Smith is averaging 18.5 (6th in the SEC), 5.0 rebounds (1.4 off. rebs), and 3.1 assists per game (9th in the SEC)  He also averages 2.5 turnovers per game in league play.  He's shooting 49.3% from the field, 33.3% from beyond the arc (15-45), and 81.7% from the free throw line (6th in the SEC).  Smith is also 4th in the league in total free throws made.  Versus UK in January, Smith led the Vols with 19 points on 5-14 shooting (2-5 treys), and he had two rebounds.

Wayne Chism: 6'9" 242 lb junior forward -- Chism is UT second leading scorer at 13.2 points per game.  He averages 8.4 rebounds.  He also grabs a healthy 2.8 offensive rebounds, 1.4 assists, and .9 blocks per game.  From the field, Chism shoots 48.1%, 29.9% from the three-point line (23-77), and 71.4% from the charity stripe.

In league play only, Chism averages 14.0 points, and 7.6 rebounds per game (8th in SEC).  He snags 2.9 offensive rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.1 steal per game.  He's shooting 46.6% from the floor, 35.1% from the three-point line (13-37), and 63.3% from the free throw line.  He is also 5th in the conference in offensive rebound percentage at 12.7% (he's 4th in defensive rebound percentage - 20.8%).  Against UK in January, Chism recorded 18 points on 7-13 shooting (0-3 on three-pointers), nine rebounds (seven offensive) and three steals.  Wednesday versus Ole Miss Chism became the 41st member of the Tennessee's 1,000 point club.

J. P.  Prince: 6'7" 205 lb junior swing -- Prince averages 9.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.5 steals per game.  He's the Vols best shooter at 54.8%, but he's made only one of 17 threes.  He makes 64.5% of his free throws.

In SEC play, Prince averages 8.9 points, 4.3 assists (6th in SEC), 3.9 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game (9th in SEC).  He shoots a robust 61.7% (1st in SEC) from the field (0-3 threes), and 63.3% from the free throw line.  He also leads the league in assist/turnover ratio at 3.1.  He also leads the SEC in fouls committed with 40.  Prince has made only three of his last nine free throws.  He hasn't made a three-pointer since November 28th against Georgetown.  Prince has recorded 37 assists in UT's last six games.  Prince leads the SEC in shooting percentage on the road at 66.7% (20-30).   

Josh Tabb: 6'4" 196 lb junior guard -- He averages 3.3 points, 1.8 assists,and 1.7 rebounds per game.  Tabb makes 51.7% of his shots, 38.1% of his threes, and 45.0% of his free throws.

In SEC play, Tabb is averaging 2.9 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.3 rebounds per game.  He's shooting 48.1% from the field, 50.0% from behind the arc ((4-8), and 50.0% from the free throw line.  Tabb has made seven of his last 14 shots (3-5 from the three-point line).  Versus UK in January, Tabb played 13 minutes, scored zero points, grabbed two rebounds, and recorded one steal.  Tabb has been tabbed by Bruce Pearl to take over the starting point guard spot from Bobby Maze.

Scotty Hopson: 6'7" 185 lb freshman guard -- On the year, Hopson is averaging 8.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game.  He's shooting 44.3% from the field, 37.6% from the three-point line (32-85), and 64.3% from the free throw line.

In conference play, Hopson is averaging 9.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 turnovers per game.  From the field he shoots 44.3%, 36.4% from beyond the arc (16-44), and 56.5% from the free throw line.  Hopson has made only four of his last 16 shots (2-11 threes in that time).  Back in January Hopson led UT to victory over Florida by scoring 20 points, on 8-12 shooting (4-6 threes).  Against UK earlier in the year, Hopson played 24 minutes, scored five points on 1-6 shooting (1-3 three-pointers), and dished out two assists.  Hopson will be another new face in the UT starting lineup.

Bobby Maze: 6'2" 185 lb junior guard -- The former UK target is averaging 8.5 points, 3.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game.  He's shooting 43.1% from the field, 31.1% from behind the arc (19-61), and 72.4% from the charity stripe. 

In SEC play, Maze is averaging 7.8 points, 2.8 assists, 1.7 rebounds, and .8 steals per game.  He's shooting 45.8% from the field, 32.3% from the three-point line (10-31), and 66.7% from the free throw line.  Maze hasn't scored in double figures since scoring 13 versus Arkansas four games ago.  Maze is 9th in the SEC with a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio (conference games only).  Versus UK in January, Maze scored 11 points, on 5-12 shooting (1-6 threes), dished out 2 assists, and committed three turnovers.

Brian Williams: 6'10" 267 lb sophomore center --  The Vols big man averages 5.0 points, and 5.6 rebound per game (2.0 off. rebs), in only 15.5 minutes per contest.  He shoots 52.1% from the field (3-9 three-pointers), but only 50.0% from the free throw line.

In league play, Williams is averaging 15.3 minutes, 4.1 points, and 4.4 rebounds per game (1.6 off. rebs).  He's shooting 58.1% from th field (1-4 threes), and 25.0% from the free throw line (1-4).  In his last three games Williams has made 7-10 field goal attempts.  Versus UK earlier, Williams played 15 minutes, scored nine points (3-5 from the field, 1-1 on his threes), and grabbed six rebounds, of which five were of the offensive variety.

Cameron Tatum: 6'6" 196 lb redshirt freshman -- Tatum, in 19.3 minutes per game, is averaging 8.0 points, and 2.2 rebounds.  He's shooting 40.1% from the floor, 32.7% from behind the arc (36-110), and 58.7% from the free throw line. 

In SEC play, Tatum is averaging 17.8 minutes, 6.2 points, and 1.5 rebounds per game.  He's shooting only 38.8% from the field, 27.3% from beyond the arc (12-44), and 40.0% from the free throw line (4-10).  Over UT's last four games, Tatum has made only two of 10 three-point attempts.  He played 26 minutes versus UK in January, and scored six points.  He was 2-8 from the field, and 1-4 from the three-point line.  He also recorded two assists.

Tennessee Statistics -- Overall

                                                 Tennessee                  Opponent

Points Per Game --                       79.1                              72.4

Field Goal% --                                45.8                              43.8

3-point FG% --                                31.3                              33.1

Free Throw% --                               67.9                              66.9

Rebounding Margin --                   +3

Offensive Rebound% --                 36.4                              31.5

Assists Per Game --                      16.6                              13.7

Steals Per Game --                         7.0                                6.0

Turnovers Per Game --                  13.6                              15.4

Blocks Per Game --                         3.7                                 3.3

On the year, UT averages 72.5 possessions per game.

Tennessee Statistics -- SEC Only

                                                 Tennessee                  Opponent

Points Per Game --                        75.6                              70.9

Field Goal% --                                 47.3                              44.5

3-point FG% --                                 32.0                              30.8

Free Throw% --                                65.2                             67.7

Rebounding Margin --                                                          +2.5

Offensive Rebound% --                  32.7                              36.1

Assists Per Game --                       15.9                              12.1

Steals Per Game --                          7.0                                6.0

Turnovers Per Game --                   12.5                              15.5

Blocks Per Game --                          3.3                                3.3

In conference play, Tennessee averages 69.9 possessions per game.

Tennessee Quick Takes

Tennessee has not lost back-to-back SEC road since since January of '07 when they lost to Mississippi and Kentucky ... UT is 0-6 when their opponents score more than 80 points ... UT is 16-3 when they hold their opponents under 80 points ... Under Bruce Pearl, UT is 86-8 when leading or tied with 5:00 minutes left in the game ... Tennessee is 16-82 versus UK in games played in Lexington ... In their last three games, UT has forced 61 turnovers and recorded 26 steals ... UT is 9-1 when Wayne Chism records a double-double ... In SEC play, UT leads the league in field goal percentage at 47.3% ... Since January 17th (10 games), Tennessee has improved their scoring defense from 76.3 points per game allowed, to only 65.3 points.

CliffsNotes Analysis

UK needs this game.  It's that simple. 

In order for Kentucky to pull out the victory, they need:  Patrick Patterson to be at least 75% of his normal, reliable self: Jodie Meeks to find the range: And for heaven's sake, crash the boards, and push the ball.

Of course UK must defend better, no, make that much better than they did Tuesday night in Nashville.  But with Patterson back, the giant, black-hole the interior defense fell into in his absence, will be plugged.  Even with Patterson, UT presents some very real matchup problems for the 'Cats: T. Smith, Chism, Hopson, Prince, and Williams are all at least 6'7", and two freshman who see limited playing time, Renaldo Woolridge and Emmanuel Negedu, are 6'8" and 6'7" respectively.

Which is why it is so vitally important that UK get some stops on D; so they can get out and run the break, and not give UT a chance to match-up.  The Vols are long, and in a half-court offensive set Kentucky is at a disadvantage.  Did I mention that the Vols are long?

Also defensively, I'd rather have Smith, Maze and Hopson beat Kentucky from the perimeter, instead of seeing UK destroyed on the boards and in the paint, as they were against Vanderbilt.

Rebound, push, and let these guys finish -- Find Meeks on the perimeter for the trey, or Perry Stevenson and Patterson in the paint for the slam.   

Rupp needs to Rock!

Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats, beat the Vols!