KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Mere minutes after completing their most impressive game of the season Saturday night, Tennessee basketball players were recalling their worst game of last season.
The No. 18-ranked Vols (17-5, 7-3 SEC) are rolling, having just blitzed Ole Miss 94-61 for their fifth straight win and eighth in the past nine games.
Thing is, a trip to Kentucky is on deck. And Tennessee has a history of losing basketball games in the Bluegrass State to the Wildcats.
Been a while
The Vols are riding a 10-game losing streak in Rupp Arena. Tennessee’s most recent win in Lexington came 12 years ago, when Chris Lofton scored 31 points in a 75-67 win.
It was only the fourth time the Vols won at Rupp Arena since the venue opened in 1976.
Tennessee junior Kyle Alexander drew a blank when asked about the rivalry and if he knew the last time the Vols won in Lexington.
“I’m not sure?” Alexander said, eyebrows raised. “It wasn’t when I was here.”
Alexander and Admiral Schofield are the only two players on Tennessee’s young team who have played more than once in Rupp Arena.
Last year at Rupp
Schofield recalled Tennessee’s 25-point loss at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena like it was yesterday.
“To be honest, we had guys that were scared,” Schofield said, reflecting back on last year’s bloody 83-58 Valentine’s Day loss in Lexington. “Guys had never been in that environment, and it really showed.”
Schofield, who recorded a double-double on Saturday with 15 points and 12 rebounds, said immediately after last year’s loss at Kentucky that the Vols “looked like zombies out there.”
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes simply declared “it’s the worst we played this year” after the lopsided defeat at the hands of Coach John Calipari a year ago.
This Tennessee team insists it is different, and coming off wins by 23, 23 and 33 points, that confidence seems warranted.
“This year, we have guys that really believe in the work ethic we’ve had,” Schofield said, “and we put our trust in each other.”
The Vols are 5-2 in true road games this season, with wins at Iowa State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.
Schofield said he knows what to expect at Rupp Arena, where Kentucky leads the nation in average home attendance (21,575).
“Kentucky has a great fan base, they travel for them, and they are very supportive of their basketball program,” Schofield said. “You have to expect they are going to be loud, and they’re going to be live for them.”
Tennessee’s past 10 trips to Rupp Arena
- Feb. 14, 2017: Kentucky 83, Tennessee 58
- Feb. 18, 2016: Kentucky 80, Tennessee 70
- Jan. 18, 2014: Kentucky 74, Tennessee 66
- Jan. 15, 2013: Kentucky 75, Tennessee 65
- Jan. 31, 2012: Kentucky 69, Tennessee 44
- Feb. 8, 2011: Kentucky 73, Tennessee 61
- Feb. 13, 2010: Kentucky 73, Tennessee 62
- Feb. 21, 2009: Kentucky 77, Tennessee 58
- Jan. 22, 2008: Kentucky 72, Tennessee 66
- Jan. 28, 2007: Kentucky 76, Tennessee 57