KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A year ago, Tennessee was down 21 points to Kentucky in a flash.
Tyler Ulis was cooking and the Wildcats were a terror on the glass, but then the Vols suddenly flipped the script, closing the half on a big run.
Tennessee’s surge carried into the second half, as the Vols upset then-No. 20 Kentucky 84-77.
“I think about Kevin Punter and Armani Moore more than anybody,” coach Rick Barnes said when asked about last season’s win.
“Those guys, regardless of where we were with our program, those guys competed. I think back to that game and we got behind and we just stayed with it. Games can turn quickly and we know that.
“When I think of that game, I think of those two guys particularly because what they have is what we are searching for this team to have. It’s a tremendous will to compete every possession.”
Barnes is hoping for a similar effort — a constant competitive fire — Tuesday when the Vols (10-9, 3-4 SEC) host the No. 4 Wildcats (17-2, 7-0) at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. Tennessee is coming off a stirring 91-72 win over Mississippi State, hanging 54 points on the Bulldogs in the second half. They did it by sharing the basketball (20 assists) and grabbing offense rebounds (19).
The Vols are 10-point underdogs Tuesday, but Barnes wants his team to play with confidence and remember last season’s lesson of competing for 40 minutes — regardless of the scoreboard.
“Looking back on last year’s game, I guess what we can take from it is if you get down and you’re willing to fight back, you can fight back,” Barnes said. “But if you’re not, you won’t get back in it, because they’re not going to let you up, if you’re not willing to fight for 40 minutes.”
Tennessee basketball vs. Mississippi State game time, details
Date: Jan. 24, 2017
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Thompson-Boling Arena.
Vegas Line: Kentucky -10
What TV Channel is Tennessee basketball vs. Kentucky on?
The game is being televised by ESPN.
How can I watch Tennessee basketball vs. Kentucky online?
The game will be available on WatchESPN.com
Who is calling the Tennessee basketball game vs. Kentucky
Brent Musburger will handle the play-by-play duties, while Sean Farnham will provide the color analysis and Kaylee Hartung will report from the sidelines.
How can I listen to Tennessee basketball vs. Kentucky
The game will be nationally broadcast on Westwood One. The game will also be on all Vol Network affiliates.
* Both teams could start lineups almost exclusively compiled of underclassmen. UK normally starts four freshmen, while Tennessee starts a trio of rookies, led by forward Grant Williams. A freshman leads UK in points (Malik Monk), rebounds (Bam Adebayo) and assists (De’Aaron Fox).
* Fox is questionable with a right ankle injury.
• The Vols are 0-5 against ranked teams in 2016-17, losing to Wisconsin, Oregon, UNC, Gonzaga and Florida.
• Kentucky is one of the top scoring teams in the country, averaging 92.9 points per game. The Wildcats have topped the century mark six times this season. They’re extremely efficient, too, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.
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