LEXINGTON, Ky. – There is an obvious danger for Kentucky basketball in Tuesday night’s trip to Tennessee. While the Volunteers are barely above .500, the fourth-ranked Wildcats have a Saturday showdown with second-ranked Kansas looming. So does this qualify as a trap game?
“Not with us,” UK assistant Kenny Payne said. “Every time we step on the floor, you can see it: They’re coming with their best game. Whether it was Mississippi State, whether it’s Tennessee, we can’t afford to look ahead to anybody. We know that we can be beat by anybody.”
Especially by Tennessee in Knoxville. Although the Cats lead the all-time series 152-68, it’s almost even when they’re the visiting team: 54-49. Kentucky blew a 21-point lead and lost last season at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“I think (John Calipari) has talked about how they beat us last year, how scrappy they are, how physical and how hard they’re going to play against us,” Payne said. “Tennessee can beat us. Regardless of what their record is, we’re playing them at Tennessee (and) they’re going to be hungry and aggressive against us.”
Kentucky basketball vs. Tennessee game time, details
Date: Tuesday, Jan. 24
Time: 9 p.m.
Location: Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678), Knoxville, Tenn.
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 10
What TV channel is Kentucky basketball vs. Tennessee on?
The game will be broadcast on ESPN (DirecTV channel 206, DISH channel 140, Time Warner channel 27/753 HD).
How can I watch Kentucky basketball vs. Tennessee online?
Who is calling the Kentucky basketball game vs. Tennessee?
Play-by-play by Brent Musberger, analysis by Sean Farnham, sideline reporting by Kaylee Hartung.
How can I listen to Kentucky basketball vs. Tennessee?
Play-by-play by Tom Leach, analysis by Mike Pratt on AM-630 (in Lexington).
No. 4 Kentucky (17-2, 7-0 SEC)
G-De’Aaron Fox (6-3, Fr.): 16.2 ppg, 6.0 apg, 4.8 rpg
G-Malik Monk (6-3, Fr.): 21.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.3 apg
G-Isaiah Briscoe (6-3, So.): 14.3 ppg, 4.2 apg, 4.2 rpg
F-Wenyen Gabriel (6-9, Fr.): 6.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg
F-Bam Adebayo (6-10, Fr.): 13.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.7 bpg
TOP RESERVES – F Derek Willis, 6-9, Sr., 7.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg; C Isaac Humphries, 7-0, So., 3.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg; G Mychal Mulder, 6-4, Sr., 6.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg; G Dominique Hawkins, 6-0, Sr., 3.2 ppg, 2.3 apg.
Tennessee (10-9, 3-4 SEC)
G-Jordan Bone (6-1, Fr.): 8.0 ppg, 3.0 apg, 1.2 rpg
G-Jordan Bowden (6-3, Fr.): 8.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.0 apg
G-Robert Hubbs III (6-5, Sr.): 14.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.7 apg
F-Grant Williams (6-5, Fr.): 10.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg
F-Kyle Alexander (6-10, So.): 3.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg
TOP RESERVES – G Lamonte Turner, 6-0, Fr., 9.6 ppg, 3.1 apg; G Shembari Phillips, 6-3, So., 6.6 ppg, 1.7 apg; F Admiral Schofield, 6-5, So., 6.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg; F John Fulkerson, 6-7, Fr., 4.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg; G Brad Woodson, 6-0, So., 5.0 ppg.
* Hawkins steadies the Cats: So why did Payne recommend to Calipari that they try Hawkins at point guard Saturday against South Carolina? Simple math. Fox was injured and Briscoe had 7 turnovers in the game, more than Hawkins had for the entire season at that point.
“If turnovers are the issue, which in spells it has been the issue – we go through four- and five-minute stretches where we’re turning the ball over – give it to somebody that doesn’t turn it over. It stabilizes us,” Payne said of Hawkins, who has 42 assist and 8 turnovers as a senior. “He’s been really, really steady, and the most important thing that he does for this team is he puts pressure on the ball.”
* Payne pumps up Briscoe: Despite stringing together two consecutive stinkers – 4 of 16 shooting, 12 total points, 9 turnovers last week – the sophomore guard got plenty of love before Monday’s practice. Before those games, no one questioned the progress Briscoe has made since his freshman season, and Payne still doesn’t.
“From last year to this year, Isaiah Briscoe is not the same basketball player. Not mentally, not physically,” Payne said. “He’s at peace with himself. He’s playing the best he’s ever played. It’s not talked about a lot, but he really should be commended on what he’s done this year.
“Some people will look at him and say he’s not a point guard. I’ll say to you, ‘Do your homework.’ He’s a point guard, but he can guard four positions out there on the court. Invaluable to this team.”