By Jimmy Hyams
Tennessee assistant Michael Schwartz wasn’t pleased with the way the Vols lost 86-69 at Rupp Arena more than two weeks ago.
Kentucky had its way on the boards, outrebounding the Vols 39-26 – the largest negative disparity for UT this season.
“They mopped the floor with us,’’ Schwartz said recently. “ They banged us around. They made Admiral (Schofield) run and they made Grant (Williams) run. They were the more physical team, the more aggressive team.’’
That can’t happen Saturday if the Vols want to keep alive their streak of beating Kentucky three in a row at Thompson-Boling Arena – the longest UT streak over the Big Blue since reeling off seven straight from 1979-85.
Kentucky not only had its way on the boards against Tennessee in the first battle, but UT’s top three shooters – Schofield, Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden – were a combined 1-for-17 from 3-point range.
For Tennessee to beat the 4th-ranked Wildcats, UT not only has to hold its own on the boards, but shoot about 40% from 3-point range. That will help open up the middle against one of the SEC’s premier defenses.
Schwartz said the message in the first UT-UK game was for the Vols to rebound and be physical.
“We didn’t do that,’’ Schwartz said.
The rebound differential was astounding.
“We got outrebounded by 13 and that is a modest number,’’ Schwartz said. “Because if you were just really thinking about what the game looked like, you would have thought we got out rebounded by 25. That is how we felt sitting over there, and they just really took it to us.’’
UT shot 41% against Kentucky – not good enough to beat a team of that caliber.
Besides rebounding, another key for Tennessee will be assist to turnover ratio. At one point, UT led the nation in assists at 20 per game, but that number slipped to 11.2 over a 3-game stretch.