KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- For only the third time in program history, No. 1 Tennessee is set to compete in a top-five matchup Saturday, taking on No. 5 Kentucky on the road in Rupp Arena.
The game marks the first meeting of two top-five SEC teams since March 8, 2003, when third-ranked Florida fell to second-ranked Kentucky, 69-67, in Gainesville. The game will tip at 8 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN and can also be viewed online through WatchESPN. Fans can listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp describing the action.
The Vols (23-1, 11-0 SEC) have been rolling through their SEC slate so far, surpassing the 1976-77 squad for the best start to conference start ever at 11-0. Nine of those wins were by double digits, as UT boasts the best scoring offense in the conference and fifth nationally at 85.5 points per game. However, starting with Saturday's game, Tennessee's next seven matchups will be its toughest stretch of the entire season, with two games against Kentucky as well as road contests at Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss.
Prior to Kentucky's loss to LSU on Tuesday, John Calipari's squad had been playing the best basketball of any team in the country. UK has logged ranked wins over Auburn, Louisville, Kansas, Mississippi State and North Carolina, while playing a similar style as the Big Orange. UT ranks first in the SEC in field-goal percentage and field-goal percentage defense, while UK ranks second (.475 FG%, .407 FG% defense) in those categories. Sophomore forward P.J. Washington (14.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg) has inserted himself into the National Player of the Year conversation with his impressive play lately.
• Tennessee trails the all-time series with Kentucky, 154-71, dating to 1910. The Vols have won two of the last three meetings.
• The Wildcats have a 90-17 edge when the series is played in Lexington.
• Tennessee is 1-0 vs. Kentucky when the Vols are the AP's top-ranked team (March 2, 2008).
A WIN WOULD...
• Extend Tennessee's program-record win streak to 20 games (it's also the longest win streak of Rick Barnes' 32-year head coaching career).
• Stretch the Vols' true road game win streak to nine.
• Make the Vols 9-1 all-time as the AP's top-ranked team.
• Extend Tennessee's program-record win streak in regular-season SEC games to 16 games.
• Improve Tennessee's record on Saturdays to 10-0 this season.
• This is the first matchup of two top-five SEC teams since March 8, 2003, when third-ranked Florida fell to second-ranked Kentucky, 69-67, in Gainesville.
• Saturday's game is the first time an SEC team ranked in the top five has hosted the top-ranked team since Feb. 2, 1966, when No. 3 Vanderbilt hosted No. 1 Kentucky.
• At tipoff Saturday, 85 full days will have elapsed since Tennessee's last loss.
• The Vols have shot 50 percent or better 16 times this season and rank second in the country with a .515 field-goal percentage.
• Point guard Jordan Bone is directly responsible for 33.1 percent of Tennessee's total scoring this season when you factor in his points scored and the points resulting from his assists.
• In SEC games, Tennessee averages a league-best 11.3 turnovers per game.
• Prior to Kentucky's loss to LSU on Tuesday, John Calipari's squad had been playing the best basketball of any team in the country. In non-conference play, UK logged ranked wins over North Carolina, Louisville and Kansas. Kentucky dropped its first matchup of the SEC slate but responded by winning its next nine conference games.
• Sophomore forward P.J. Washington (14.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg) has inserted himself into the National Player of the Year conversation with his impressive play lately. As the team's leading scorer and rebounder, Washington has scored at least 20 points in five of the last six games and recorded three of his seven double-doubles during that stretch.
• Forward Keldon Johnson (14.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.5 apg) is second on the team in scoring and one of several talented freshmen on the team. The backcourt duo of Ashton Hagans (7.1 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.4 rpg, 2.1 spg) and Tyler Herro (13.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 spg) leads Kentucky in assists and steals per game and has been crucial in the maturation of the team.
• In a freshman class that featured multiple guards, UK needed some depth in the frontcourt and landed graduate transfer forward and All-Pac 12 performer Reid Travis (11.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, .519 FG%) from Stanford. Travis also brings much-needed experience to the Wildcats, who also returned several pieces from last season's SEC Tournament Championship squad.
• Kentucky plays a similar style to Tennessee. UT ranks first in the SEC in field-goal percentage and field-goal percentage defense, while UK ranks second (.475 FG%, .407 FG% defense). In scoring defense, the Wildcats are second in the conference, holding opponents to an average of 65.5 points per game.
LAST MEETING VS. KENTUCKY
• Despite erasing a 17-point deficit, No. 2-seeded Tennessee fell to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament Championship Game, 77-72, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, on March 11, 2018.
• All-SEC wing Admiral Schofield led the Vols with 22 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. He was Tennessee's lone representative on the All-Tournament Team.
• SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams chipped in 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three steals.
• After a corner three by Jordan Bone banked off the glass for a much-needed basket, Tennessee made it a 68-67 game in favor of UK with 1:13 remaining. The Wildcats sealed the game, though, after a step-back jumper and a pair of free throws made it 72-67. Bone finished with 12 points and four assists.
• The Big Orange were aggressive to start the second half, using a 10-2 run capped off by a three from Schofield to give UT a 41-38 lead at the 16:34 mark.
• Kentucky responded with a 14-2 run of its own to gain a 52-43 advantage with 12:29 left, forcing the Vols to call a timeout. Just when it seemed the Wildcats were going to pull ahead, the Volunteers went on a 14-3 run of their own to regain a 57-55 lead, finished by SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year Lamonté Turner's deep three to beat the shot clock. He finished with 10 points and four assists.
• Everything was falling for Kentucky in the first half, as the Cats took a 33-16 lead with less than five minutes left in the period. With the game on the line, the Vols responded by going on a 15-3 run to go into halftime down just five at 36-31.
• Freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Kentucky with a game-high 29 points.
MEMORABLE VOL PERFORMANCES AGAINST KENTUCKY
• Kevin Punter Jr.'s 27 points were the most scored by a Vol against the Kentucky in 10 years as Tennessee defeated the Wildcats, 84-77, Feb. 2, 2016, in Knoxville. The senior point guard made three 3-pointers and was 11-of-12 at the free-throw line.
• Chris Lofton reeled off 31 points, Major Wingate scored 12 and longtime NBA point guard C.J. Watson added 10 as No. 11 Tennessee beat Kentucky 75-67 at Rupp Arena on Feb. 7, 2006.
• Beating the Wildcats was three times as nice during the 1978-79 season. UT notched program win No. 900 in Lexington on Jan. 20, 66-55, before topping UK 101-84 in Knoxville on Feb. 17. Then the Vols won the 1979 SEC Tournament with a 75-69 win over UK in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 3. Current Vol Network radio analyst Bert Bertelkamp was a junior on that Tennessee team.
• As Bernard King walked off the court at Memorial Gym after a deflating 88-82 loss on Jan. 13, 1975, a Kentucky fan flipped a lit cigarette into the Tennessee legend's hair. Outraged, King vowed he would never lose to Kentucky again. He vigorously carried out that promise, finishing his career 5-1 against the Wildcats.
SERIES HISTORY & NOTES
• The Kentucky series is UT's oldest and most-played among SEC opponents. The Vols and Wildcats first met on Feb. 5, 1910, and have clashed 225 times over the years.
• On 11 different occasions—first in 1950 and most recently in 2017—Tennessee has defeated a Kentucky team ranked in the AP top five.
• No program in college basketball has logged more wins over Kentucky than Tennessee (71).
• Kentucky is one of only two SEC schools (along with Alabama) to lead its all-time series against the Volunteers.
• Four Tennessee All-Americans were Kentucky natives: Allan Houston, Chris Lofton, Danny Schultz and Paul "Lefty" Walther.
• The Vols have beaten the Wildcats just five times at Rupp Arena, posting victories in 1977, 1979, 1999, 2006 and 2018.
• UT has never won back-to-back games at Rupp.
• Tennessee has 14 all-time wins over the Wildcats at Thompson-Boling Arena, including three straight.
BARNES + CALIPARI = 1,300+ WINS
• Saturday's game features the two winningest coaches (total career Division I wins) in the SEC.
• John Calipari is the league's active leader in career wins, with 698. Rick Barnes is a close second with 683 victories to his credit.
• Among all active Division I head coaches, Calipari and Barnes rank sixth and seventh, respectively, in total head coaching wins.
• Barnes and Calipari became friends while working a Pitt basketball camp in the late 1970s. The star player at that camp? Current Arizona head coach Sean Miller.
CALIPARI AMONG TENNESSEE'S MOST-FACED ACTIVE COACHES
• On Saturday, John Calipari will coach his 25th career game against the Vols. Among active college coaches, that stands as the second-most career meetings against Tennessee.
COACH MEETINGS UT's RECORD vs.
Tubby Smith 26 7-19
John Calipari 24 9-15
Frank Martin 13 9-4
Mark Gottfried 13 4-9
VOLS HAVE NINE WINS AGAINST CALIPARI 2.0
• Since UK coach John Calipari returned to the college game in 2000-01, Tennessee has dealt him nine losses. No team has more wins over Calipari-coached teams during that span.
Kansas, Ole Miss, Southern Miss 4
NATION'S LONGEST WIN STREAK
• Tennessee is riding a program-record 19-game win streak.
• It is the longest active win streak in Division I.
• The Vols' eight-game active win streak in true road games also is the longest in Division I and the second-longest in program history.
• Tennessee's 23-game home win streak is the second-longest active streak in Division I. Houston has won 32 straight at home; Buffalo, like UT, has won 22 straight.