Winless on road, Tennessee travels to No. 1 UK

Coach Cuonzo Martin says his Tennessee Volunteers are better now

than when they nearly upset Kentucky in Knoxville. He also knows

there’s no reason for people to believe it just yet.

”Are we a better team? Yes, we’re a better team, but I think

you have to go on the road in a hostile environment and prove it,”

Martin said Monday.

Tennessee (10-11, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) hasn’t proven it

yet, and it will be tough to do this week. The Vols travel to

Lexington to face the top-ranked Wildcats (20-1, 7-0), who have the

nation’s longest home winning streak at 47, including a 46-0 mark

under coach John Calipari at Rupp Arena.

Tennessee hasn’t won a true road game, and its most recent road

trip resulted in a 65-47 loss at Vanderbilt. The Vols nearly pulled

out wins at Mississippi State and Georgia but couldn’t close out

either game.

Calipari thinks Tennessee has improved since Kentucky’s 65-62

win in Knoxville on Jan. 14.

”They’re a good team,” he said. ”The only team that really

got them was Vandy. Every other game they could have won I’m glad

(our rematch) is at home, I can tell you.”

Wildcats sophomore forward Terrence Jones doesn’t take his

team’s dominance at home for granted.

”Every game in the SEC for us is we get the best of every

team,” he said. ”We really have to respect each team in the

SEC.”

The Vols have become one of the better defensive teams in the

SEC, partly because of how they’ve played at home. They rank third

in the SEC in conference play in points allowed per game (59),

second in field goal defense (38.1 percent) and second in rebounds

per game (38.1).

But on the road, Tennessee has struggled to hit its shots and

take care of the ball. The Vols rank 10th in conference play in

scoring (58.5 points per game) and last in turnovers (17.2 per

game).

Kentucky could feast off those marks. The Wildcats are second in

the nation in defensive field goal percentage at 36.4 percent and

in blocked shots with 204, including 101 by 6-foot-10 freshman

Anthony Davis.

The Vols’ only win away from Knoxville came in the Maui

Invitational against host Chaminade in what was technically a

neutral site game, and they haven’t won in Lexington since a 75-67

victory on Feb. 7, 2006.

”I think it’s more mental than anything,” Martin said. ”I

think our preparation is there. It’s just a matter of carrying out

assignments, being ready to play, having fun and embracing the

atmosphere more than anything. I just think it’s more mental right

now, the mental toughness part of it.”

Kentucky has six players averaging 9.9 points or more. Davis is

averaging a double-double with 13.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per

game, while the Wildcats’ sixth man, senior guard Darius Miller is

hitting 63 percent of his shots over the last four games.

”Darius Miller is playing really aggressive offensively,”

Calipari said. ”He’s getting in the middle, he’s making that

little floater, he’s making shots, he’s getting strong to the rim,

he’s dunking balls when he can. He, offensively, is playing like he

did at the end of last year.”

If facing a Kentucky team loaded with talent isn’t enough, the

23,000-seat Rupp Arena has proven to be the most difficult place in

the SEC to get a win in the past few seasons. The Wildcats also

will be breaking out special uniforms as part of Nike’s

”platinum” line for this game only.

Martin said his players need to learn how to enjoy that kind of

atmosphere.

”Just go, play, have some fun and compete,” he said. ”The

great ones love that environment.”

AP Sports Writer Colin Fly in Lexington, Ky. contributed to this

story.