3-Point Shot: UK-Tennessee preview

Tennesse’s Kevin Punter Jr. (0) goes up for a shot past Texas Christian’s Chauncey Collins (2) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU won, 75-63. (Bob Haynes/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS)

Josh Ellis

No. 20 UK (16-5, 6-2) v. Tennessee (10-11, 3-5)

Tipoff: Tuesday, 7 p.m., Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tennessee TV: ESPN Radio: UK Radio Network

UT’s Kevin Punter

Tennessee’s two-game losing streak has pushed the team to 10-11 overall (3-5 SEC), but the Volunteers still have something to hang their hat on — senior Kevin Punter. The junior college transfer is averaging 23.0 ppg (2nd in SEC) and 3.5 apg.

“(Punter is) aggressive offensively. He gets shots,” UK assistant coach Kenny Payne said on Monday. “His team needs him to shoot the ball and he does. He does a great job of going to the free-throw line. He’s attacking at all times. He’s a handful.”

Punter will need another breakout 30-point game (which he’s capable of) if the Vols want to upset UK in Knoxville.

Trio trending up

The Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray trio is solidifying its campaign as the best backcourt in college basketball. They combined for 53 points in a 90-84 overtime loss at Kansas, but dictated the pace of play and could get to the rim whenever they wanted.

In spite of its success, UK needs to find ways to put other players on the court so Ulis doesn’t have to play the entire 45 minutes of regulation like he did at Kansas. Junior Dominique Hawkins’ return could help give Ulis a rest moving forward.

“Definitely need another guy because they can’t go in and play all 40 minutes,” Hawkins said. “And if they could, they’d be, like, not a human to be able to play that. Definitely you need somebody off the bench to find a role and come in and give good minutes off the bench.”

Fixing foul trouble

One struggle the UK big men have continuously faced this season has been staying out of foul trouble. Against Kansas, the Cats committed a total of 33 fouls and had four players foul out.

Until UK can learn how to play physical without fouling, minutes for Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Skal Labissiere and Derek Willis will continue to decline.

“(Willis) got in some foul trouble and we like for him to play without fouling,” Payne said. “You can say some of the fouls he got were ticky-tac, but that’s the referee’s calls and not ours. Just got to play a little smarter.”