Gameday: Kentucky at Tennessee

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UK Plays First SEC Road Game at Tennessee

Just three days after playing its first SEC game, Kentucky takes to the road for the first time in conference play with a Tuesday night tilt at No. 15/25 Tennessee in a nationally televised game on ESPN.

Kentucky and Tennessee are meeting for the 206th time, making the UK-UT series the second most played series in the league.

The Wildcats opened SEC play with a 70-60 win over Vanderbilt in Rupp Arena on Saturday. Jodie Meeks led all scorers with 21 points, his third straight 20-point game. Meeks also tied for team high honors with seven rebounds. Ramon Harris also pulled down seven boards, while going 5-5 from the field including two three-pointers to finish with 12 points. Patrick Patterson (11) and Perry Stevenson (10) also scored in double-figures for the Wildcats.

Cat Scratches

  • Kentucky is in its 106th season of basketball.
  • Kentucky is the all-time NCAA leader in wins with 1,978.
  • The Wildcats are 140-65 all-time against Tennessee, including a 50-46 record in Knoxville.
  • Jodie Meeks leads the Southeastern Conference and ranks fifth nationally in scoring (24.2 ppg).
  • Patrick Patterson ranks second in the nation in FG percentage (70.9) and 33rd in rebounding (9.3).
  • Patterson is the only player in the SEC to rank in the top five in scoring (4th - 18.9) and rebounding (3rd - 9.3).
  • UK ranks third in the country in blocked shots per game (7.5) while ranking fourth nationally in field goal percentage (50.5), sixth in free throw percentage (78.7) and ninth in assists/game (17.9).
  • Patrick Patterson has recorded nine double-doubles this season and 15 in his career, tying him for 22nd on UK's all-time double-doubles list.
  • Kentucky is 50-24 all-time in SEC road openers.
  • UK is 11-0 when leading at the half this season.
  • The Wildcats are 11-0 this season when limiting the opponent under 40 percent from the field.

Kentucky Head Coach Billy Gillispie

On Tennessee ...
"They are a really good team. They are very athletic and are improving every day. They have been good so far this year but continue to get better as well. I would say not studying the league too much, that have probably played the toughest schedule in our conference. They are just a very good team offensively and defensively. Everyone talks about them being a good team offensively but they do a lot of things defensively as well. You have to be very well prepared to play against them and they play very hard. They are just a very nice team."

On the problems that Tyler Smith presents for Kentucky ...
"He is a great player because he is a very hard matchup. You put a small guy on him and he will eat you up then you put a big guy on him and he is too quick from them. His real game begins when the shot goes up because he is just a warrior. He is a great offensive and defensive player and is great in transition. He does all the little things that make a player great. "

On what Tennessee does defensively ...
"They really compete hard. That is the thing about them is that they put a lot of pressure on you whether it be in the front or back court. No defense is very good if you don't compete and they really do compete hard. Their depth is important to them and detrimental to their opponents. They play really hard and rebound well on both ends."

On if UT's pressure is similar to some other teams Kentucky has played this year ...
"They are similar, but they are longer and more athletic from one-to-ten maybe than anyone. North Carolina is very skilled and experienced, and so is Louisville, but Tennessee is probably the deepest, athletic and long team that we have played. Their pressure can really ratchet it up on you. The most important thing is that they have been good this season and every single time they go out they are getting better."

On how he feels his team has been handling the pressure ...
"We have to get better at it and we are getting better at it every day. We have to continue to improve because we are going to have plenty of opportunities to improve in the future."

On if there is an upside to being pressured because it could possible give you some open looks to the basket if you beat the pressure ...
"Sometimes there might be if you handle it right but we have to do a good job of getting open first. Then we have to square up strong to the basket. We have to attack inside and don't get too perimeter oriented. We need to attack with the dribble and the pass and sometimes you would have some opportunities. The thing about Tennessee is that they are very athletic and play hard so if you beat the initial pressure you might have an opening but it will close quickly because of their athletic ability and size."

On how important it is for Kentucky to make Tennessee play a half-court game ...
"I don't really know if that is our best game style or not. We are still trying to figure out what is best for us. We played a half court game on Saturday and it wasn't our best game. We were made to play that way and we obliged."

On Wayne Chism's play this year ...
"I think that he is great. I think that he is one of the best interior players in the country and will be a guy that will play into the NBA and last for 10 or 15 years. He will be a guy that makes a ton of money. There are not many guys that have his hands, skill, balance, athletic ability and size. People just bounce off his body and he bounces off the floor. His second jump is tremendously quick. He can play on the perimeter and on the post and has a really good feel for the game. He is very competitive and is one of the best players anywhere. "

On Tennessee's rebounding intensity ...
"They are great rebounding the ball defensively and offensively as well. You don't win the games that they have over the last couple of seasons without being a really good rebounding team. I don't know if I have ever seen a better offensive rebounding team then they are. They have a lot of long guys that are athletic and can really score points. Coach Pearl does a great job of getting them in the lane and attacking the ball every time that it is shot. As far as we go, we have been a little erratic in our rebounding. I thought that we were going to be a great rebounding team and the numbers would indicate that we have been, but I was disappointed that we didn't win on the boards on Saturday. I think that was indicative of the attention to detail we showed defensively and why we got off to a poor start."

On Jodie Meeks ...
"As hard as Jodie is playing, I don't see too many bad plays. It might be a bad play for some people but when you play with the energy that he does every single day in practice and every game against adverse conditions a lot of mistakes can be forgiven. A lot of his mistakes are mistakes of commission not of omission. I think that you can live with mistakes of commission and I despise mistakes of omission."