Kentucky Wildcats (17-5) at Tennessee Volunteers (13-9)
- Location: Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN
- Game Time: 1:00 pm EST on Saturday, February 8th
- TV Channel: Saturday’s game can be viewed on CBS.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington, and on the UK Sports Network.
- Online radio: TuneIn broadcast or UKAthletics.com.
- Online Stream: The game can be streamed online at CBSSports.com.
- Odds: Kentucky is favored by 2.5 points. ESPN BPI gives Tennessee a 53.2% chance of winning. KenPom gives the Vols a 51% chance a win.
- Rosters: UK | UT
- Live Stats
- Prediction: KenPom projects the Vols to come away with a 66-65 win. TeamRankings has the Cats winning 66-64, while numberFire projected a 66-65 victory for Kentucky.
The Kentucky Wildcats bounced back a bit against Mississippi State on Tuesday. While it was not a perfect performance, there was a lot to like.
EJ Montgomery looked like a high-level college basketball player. Nick Richards scored 25 points in the second half alone. And Immanuel Quickley made all 14 of his free throw attempts.
However, there is still a great deal of work to do. Ashton Hagans did not produce very much offensively. Johnny Juzang made very little impact at all. And while he shot well at the free throw line, Quickley really struggled in shooting 27% from the field. If they get those things cleaned up, this team will be in great shape.
But can they get that done by Saturday?
On paper, the Wildcats should be a significant favorite over the Tennessee Volunteers. But given the fact that John Calipari is 4-8 in Thompson-Boling Arena as a coach (3-6 while at Kentucky) and the Wildcats have not won there since 2015, the matchup gets a little more interesting.
The Volunteers have had a disappointing season coming off of a year where they were in contention for a national championship. They sit at 5-4 in the SEC and have lost three of their last four games. Their best wins of the year are against Washington, VCU, and Tuesday at Alabama.
Tennessee has a balanced scoring attack with four players averaging double figures. However, losing Lamonte Turner for the season back in December has certainly complicated things. Jordan Bowden leads the team with 13 points per game, and John Fulkerson (who looks EXACTLY like Kylo Ren) puts up 12.
Fulkerson is a big reason why the Vols have been more competitive lately, as the junior forward scored 22 points in the win at Alabama and has reached double figures in seven of his last nine games.
International players Santiago Vescovi and Uros Plavsic have only been eligible for 10 and seven games, respectively. But they trying to find ways to make an impact as Vescovi is averaging 10.1 points per game, and the 7-footer Plavsic is working his way into the front court rotation. Plavsic recently scored 16 points in a loss at Mississippi State.
Yves Pons is listed as a guard, but the 6-6, 215-pound bruiser will challenge Kentucky on the wing and in the paint. The native of France is coming off a 14-point, 14-rebound, three-block performance against the Crimson Tide. His best outing actually came in Tennessee’s narrow defeat at Kansas, where Pons recorded 24 points, seven boards and three blocks.
The Vols do not have any prolific three-point shooters, but that does not stop them from attempting almost 20 per game. Freshman Josiah-Jordan James is their best shooter at 36.7% from downtown, while Vescovi is hitting 36.4% from deep, and Pons is at 34.3%.
Tennessee’s best chance is to muck it up to get Kentucky off their game on offense and have a guy catch fire from deep. And actually, that is a pretty likely scenario for Saturday.
But if Kentucky is able to play through Richards offensively, get open looks for Quickley and Maxey, and keep the Volunteers from getting hot, then the Wildcats should come out of Knoxville with their first win there in five years.