3 things to watch for: UK vs. Tennessee



Three things to watch when UK plays Tennessee on Tuesday (7 p.m., ESPNU):

1. Jarnell Stokes — Tennessee’s freshman forward played his first college game against UK in their first matchup. He had nine points and four rebounds in 17 minutes (all while, according to Jimmy Dykes’ now infamous repetition, hardly knowing what the game of college basketball apparently was) against Kentucky earlier this season in his first NCAA game.

While Terrence Jones downplayed his impact on that game — “I don’t think he really made that big of a difference,” Jones said — Stokes has the abilities to prove Jones wrong this time around. He’s not overly tall, but he’s strong in the paint. He had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Connecticut three games ago.

However, UK has been able to handle physical play in recent games, a style Jones said started with the Volunteers.

“I think they were one of the first that played us that way,” Jones said. “But since then every game has been like that. We’ve adjusted to it.”

If Jones and Anthony Davis are up to the toughness challenge, the Cats should hold steady in the post and take away Tennessee’s best trait.

2. Marquis Teague’s defense — In the first matchup, Teague held Tennessee point guard Trae Golden — who was averaging over 20 points per game for the four contests leading into UK — to two points.

At the time, Calipari called it the best defensive performance Teague had played. It might have started a slide for Golden, who’s had point totals of two (UConn) and four (at Vanderbilt) since then.

Teague will need to play tenacious defense again. Golden has the capability to jump start the Volunteers’ offense. Shut him down, the Tennessee will struggle even more to keep up on the scoreboard.

3. Who steps up? — Last game, it was Terrence Jones, who exploded for a season-high 27 points. Often, however, one man’s huge game comes at the expense of others. Against LSU, that was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who scored one point (he still did enough to where Calipari called him the “best” player on the floor that day).

Will it be a well-rounded performance from everybody? Will one player take command? The dynamics of UK’s offense is fascinating, because it could be one just as likely as it could be the other.

Either way, points are almost guaranteed to come because of UK’s offensive versatility. We just don’t where where it will originate.

PREDICTION: In the platinum jerseys, UK takes care of business, winning 75-64. Playing at home again will be a huge help (read this piece by Tennessee beat writer Mike Strange on the challenges on winning at Rupp).

When asked about the second installment of UK-Tennessee, Calipari first pointed to the location of the game.

“I’m glad it’s at home, I can tell you,” Calipari said, before hedging his words with, “I don’t know if that will matter.”

I would bet it does.

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