#4 Tennessee At #18 Kentucky Preview

Number 16 UK Hoops (18-4, 7-2 SEC) will face off tonight against SEC leading, and number 5 ranked, Tennessee as part of ESPN2 “Big Monday”. The Cats, winners of seven straight, are a half game behind Georgia for second in the SEC, and two games behind an unblemished 9-0 Tennessee squad.

If the cats are to win the SEC Regular season, this game tonight is truly a must as this is the only time the two rivals will meet. Tennessee is defeating SEC foes by an average clip of 28 points per game, all while holding their opponent to an average scoring output of only 52 per game.

For the Cats, the key will be their vaunted relentless defense and if they can create the turnovers required to outscore this talented Volunteer team.

Forward Victoria Dunlap, the team leader in scoring and rebounding, also sets the pace in steals with 69.

“She is the unquestioned spiritual energy leader of the team,” said UT assistant coach Dean Lockwood, who prepared the scouting report. “It’s like the old (adage) when your best player is your hardest worker, it just filters through the team.”

On Kentucky’s defense, “They’re as aggressive of a basketball team as we’ve faced all year,” said Lockwood.

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said that it’s taken some of the younger Wildcats awhile to get in step with Dunlap. Freshman guard Jennifer O’Neill, a high school All-American from the Bronx, N.Y., endured what Mitchell described as a “mighty struggle” with Kentucky’s emphasis on defense.

Although Tennessee is averaging a relatively manageable 15.7 turnovers per game, the Lady Vols have had 19 or more in three games since Georgetown. Of the 17 they committed in last Sunday’s 72-53 win at Arkansas, at least half were easily avoidable. The trend suggests a lingering degree of vulnerability that hopefully the Cats pressure defense can exploit.

Four players average in double-digit scoring this season for UT led by freshman guard Meighan Simmons’ 14.8 points per game. Junior Shekinna Stricklen, senior Angie Bjorklund and junior Glory Johnson follow close behind with each averaging around 11.0 points per game. Johnson in the team’s leading rebounder with 9.6 rpg.

Although Kentucky has only defeated the Vols 7 times in 53 tries, the Wildcats have won 2 of the last 3 in Lexington, including the last matchup in Memorial Coliseum in 2009 when the Cats held Tennessee to only 56 points in a 66-56 victory.

Go Cats!!!



Read the Tennessee review here.

Read the entire UK Hoops review here.


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  • Chip Miller can be contacted via e-mail at ukbigbluenation@live.com.
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