Tuesday, January 24, 2017, saw the Kentucky Wildcats travel to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers only to return to Lexington in defeat.
The last time the Kentucky Basketball team and Tennessee squared off, it did not go as planned for the young Cats. Tennessee seemingly out hustled, out rebounded, and out manned John Calipari’s squad. In a day full of upsets, Kentucky was the third team of the top four to lose. Then No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Kansas both went down prior to Kentucky’s matchup against Rick Barnes’ Volunteers.
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The Wildcats saw a lot of productivity from Freshman forward Bam Adebayo during the contest. The big man scored 21 points while shooting 9-of-8 from the field. Malik Monk had quite a game as well tallying 25 points while shooting 7-of-19. Unfortunately the young guard turned the ball over on five occasions which gave Tennessee extra possessions late in the game. Turnovers and poor three point shooting allowed the Volunteers to take advantage of the Cats’ mistakes and pulled out the upset win 82-80.
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A Revenge Game for Kentucky Basketball
One thing is for certain when it comes to sports. What goes around, comes around. Luckily, John Calipari’s young group of stars get a second shot at the Volunteers as they make their way to Lexington on Tuesday, February 14. Kentucky enters the game with a bit of tartar on the tongue, so to speak.
This young Kentucky squad seems to be struggling as of late. Following the LSU game at Rupp, Coach Cal made an emphasis to his team that defense would be a priority. Defense is what carried the Cats to a victory in Tuscaloosa over Avery Johnson’s Crimson Tide.
Kentucky comes into this week’s matchup with Tennessee with something to prove. They must show the college hoops world that this team is getting better every day. Improving the rebounding, team decision making as well as winning the turnover battle are some things that this team has exposed as their weaknesses. They must provide a good showing Tuesday, or else the Volunteers will be heading home with a clean sweep of the Big Blue Nation.
What to Watch For
Kentucky must get Bam Adebayo the ball. Point. Blank. Period. The North Carolina native torched the Volunteers in the previous matchup as height is not a strength of this Tennessee squad. Adebayo’s power and prowess around the rim needs to be commonplace in this revenge game in front of Big Blue.
Malik Monk needs to crash the glass. Team rebounding has been atrocious in recent weeks. Monk has recorded just one rebound in the previous 3 contests. The young man needs to take a page out of Isaiah Briscoe’s book and apply himself to help the team limit second chance opportunities.
Tennessee comes to Rupp after dropping two of their last three contests. Look for Rick Barnes’ team to be fired up and looking to right the ship with a nice showing headed into the SEC Tournament. From here on out, every game for a team like Tennessee is a must win. Everyone is scratching for a birth in the Big Dance.