The last time Tennessee won five games over Kentucky in a six-game span was when the Volunteers won five straight in the series between 1975 and 1977. Tennessee can update that statistic by making it five of the last six with a win over the Wildcats on Saturday as they look for the second regular-season sweep in the series over the past three years.
Kentucky has won its last two games, though, and figures to put up a fight as it has begun consistently producing more points after an abysmal offensive start to its season. The Wildcats are still just 7-13 overall, but at 6-7 in the SEC, they have proven their ability to hang with most of their conference foes.
UK led Tennessee 42-34 at halftime of the first meeting on Feb. 6 at Kentucky before the Volunteers closed with a huge second half in an 82-71 win. Freshmen wings Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson exploded for a combined 50 points in that game, setting the tone for what Tennessee fans hope will be a strong finish to a season that began with lofty expectations. But finishing the season strong will require handling business at home against this historically bad Kentucky squad.
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When: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
Where: Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TennesseeTV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Tennessee: After beginning the season bringing both off the bench, veteran coach Rick Barnes has taken the training wheels off of Springer and Johnson, inserted them in the starting lineup and allowed them to flourish offensively. Their emergence has been a welcome sight, because the veteran tandem of Yves Pons and John Fulkerson appears to have hit its ceiling in terms of offensive production. All told, the Volunteers are a team relying on their defense that needs someone from a group of seven players averaging between 8.9 and 12.4 points per game to step up on a game-by-game basis. Springer and Johnson have proven they can do that when needed, and the talented freshmen duo may determine just how far this Tennessee team can go.
Kentucky: The Wildcats needed some late-game heroics to survive against lowly Vanderbilt on Wednesday. But at this point, any win is a great win for this team after a 5-13 start. Consecutive victories over Auburn and the Commodores mean that Kentucky is on just its second winning streak of any sort this season. Kentucky has scored 80 or more points in three straight games for the first time and 70 or more in five straight games for the first time, thanks in large part to better 3-point shooting. The Wildcats have been among the worst in the country from behind the arc this season, but freshman guard Brandon Boston Jr. has hit 11-of-20 shots from deep over the past three games to help spark an offensive resurgence.
Game prediction, pick
Prediction: Tennessee is the better team, but Kentucky is playing at a higher level than it was during the first meeting just two weeks ago. The Volunteers should win, but it might be closer than most people think. Prediction: Tennessee 71, Kentucky 67 — David Cobb
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Published: 2021-02-20 06:34:21
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