UK, Tennessee set for rematch in Knoxville


Kentucky and Tennessee players fight for a rebound during the game against Tennessee on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 86-69. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Jake Maynard

Kentucky basketball travels to Knoxville Saturday for the team’s second matchup with Tennessee of the season. The No. 7 Volunteers have a 61.5% chance of victory, per ESPN. 

Kentucky won 86-69 against Tennessee earlier this year. The teams’ last matchup was on Feb. 17 at Rupp Arena when the Wildcats controlled virtually the entire game. Tennessee’s only lead was the first basket of the game, one that was overshadowed by PJ Washington’s three pointer 30 seconds later.

“It was our game plan to be the more aggressive team,” Washington said about UK’s last game against Tennessee. “We came out really aggressive at the beginning of the game and kept that pace the whole 40 minutes. If we can do that in Knoxville, I feel like we have a great chance of winning the game as well.”

Head coach John Calipari said senior forward Reid Travis was “unbelievable keeping an eye on (Grant) Williams defensively.” Travis is currently questionable for the Mar. 2 game, making Calipari question, “Are we capable of doing that with the guys we have? “

Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield are both on the Wooden Watch. The John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious single-player accolade in college basketball. On Feb. 4 the late season top 20 watch list was released, naming both Williams and Schofield. The duo are averaging 19.1 and 16.7 points, respectively.  

Schofield’s best game came in the Volunteers’ win over the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs in December when the 6’5 senior banked in a deep three to tie the game with a little under a minute-and-a-half then sealed the win with a second NBA-range three. The Volunteers won 76-73 behind Scofield’s 30 points and 60 percent shooting from deep.

Williams’ best performance came more recently– the Vanderbilt Commodores took the Volunteers to overtime, threatening their 12-game win streak that would later be broken by a loss to Kentucky. Williams stepped up big for the Vols, making all 23 of his free throws and scored a total of 43 points. The junior star played his best when the game was on the line, scoring 10 of the team’s last 12 points.

Reid Travis is Saturday’s big question. The Stanford graduate transfer injured his right knee on Feb. 19 against the Missouri Tigers. When asked what the key to the game was, Calipari said, “Get Reid healthy.”

For fans thinking that this means Travis will play, don’t get your hopes up.

“We’re going to see what he does today and tomorrow, but I doubt it,” Calipari said. After dashing hopes of a Travis return, Calipari gave some good news about Tyler Herro’s availability. “He’s fine,” Coach Cal said. Herro injured his ankle in the first half of the Arkansas game and was questionable for the second half but returned.

With Kentucky’s starting big out of the picture, Washington makes the adjustment seem simple. “Just guys gotta step up. Me, Nick (Richards) and EJ (Montgomery) gotta play a bigger role,” Washington said.  

Starting point guard Ashton Hagans has confidence in his teammates.

“They can bring a lot to the table. These past couple of games, they’ve been big time for us,” Hagans said. “Nick is playing very well in practice right now. EJ is doing the same. They’re bringing intensity and that’s all we need from them coming off the bench.”

The game will be covered by CBS and tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. eastern time.