3-Point Shot: UK-Tennessee Preview

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The loss to Tennessee was arguably the worst this season for the Cats.

Josh Ellis

No. 14 UK (19-6, 9-3) v. Tennessee (12-13, 5-7)

Tipoff: Thursday, 7 p.m., Rupp Arena TV: ESPN Radio: UK Radio Network, Sirius Channel 83, XM Channel 190

Three points of emphasis for the UK-Tennessee rematch on Thursday:

Cats look to avenge loss

UK went into Thompson-Boling Arena on Feb. 2 and built a 21-point lead on the Volunteers, only until a second half collapse led Tennessee to comeback and upset the Cats on its home floor 84-77.

Despite arguably the worst loss of the season coming that night, UK head coach John Calipari said Wednesday his team is past that. The Cats have been playing their best basketball of the season their last three games (averaging a 26.7 margin of victory in that span), and likely will continue that trend on Thursday.

“We’re (focused on) this game,” Calipari said. “Rick (Barnes) is doing a great job like he always does. They’ve taken on his personality. They’re defending. They’re tough. They’re packing it in defensively.”

Throwback Thursday

Remember the names John Wall and Eric Bledsoe? Calipari believes he’s got two guards on this year’s squad that remind him of the latter. Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray have been lighting it up on the offensive end, and are beginning to draw eerily similar comparisons to the 2010-11 Cats.

“(Murray’s) playing a lot like Eric Bledsoe played, when he played with John Wall,” Calipari said. “I can remember Eric hitting 32 against Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament, just going crazy. I remember 27-28 down on the road at Florida. They play off each other. One game one does it, the other game the other does it.”

UK coming together

If it has not already shown on the court, UK is a completely different team than it was at the beginning of the year. Guys are “becoming empowered” as Calipari said on Wednesday, and each player is accepting a role that suits them.

Freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe, who averaged 6.7 points, 4.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds in his last three games, feels like he and his teammates have grown closer in recent weeks.

“I’m having way more fun than I was at the beginning of the year,” Briscoe said. “I was having fun in the beginning of the year, but now it’s just amazing. This is why I came to Kentucky. We’re clicking on the court, we’re talking, smiling and we’re just playing basketball.”