TTU will be making its second trip in as many seasons to Rupp Arena. The Golden Eagles lost 108-81 to the Wildcats last November, their first loss of the 2003-04 season.
Third-year head coach Mike Sutton returns to Lexington to face his former boss in UK head coach Tubby Smith. Sutton was an assistant under Smith at Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky, helping the Wildcats capture the 1998 NCAA National Championship.
"It's definitely a special opportunity to go up to Rupp Arena and play," said Sutton. "The tradition speaks for itself, and I have many memories from the people of Lexington and the University of Kentucky."
Sutton and his team's task on Tuesday night will be an upset attempt at the number eight team in the country.
"We have to play an exceptional ballgame on Tuesday," said Sutton. "They (UK) have much more balance than they've had in the past, and they have quality depth. Our defensive play will be a huge key for us."
Tech is having no problems scoring through its first three games this season, averaging nearly 86 points per contest. Senior forward Willie Jenkins leads the Golden Eagles with 19.3 ppg and 6.0 rebounds per game. TTU has three others averaging in double figures: Derek Stribling (12.0), Milone Clark (11.7), and Ben Jacobson (11.0).
The Wildcats, however, are holding opponents to just 52 ppg, while allowing teams to shoot only 35% from the floor.
"They play such great defense, and we just have to be patient and get good looks," said Sutton.
Another homecoming for the Golden Eagles to Rupp Arena will be first-year assistant coach Saul Smith. Smith, the second oldest son of Coach Tubby Smith, will be making his first appearance at Rupp Arena as an opponent. Smith played for the ‘Cats from 1998-2002.
"It's going to be very awkward going into Rupp and not cheering for the Big Blue," said Smith. "I always loved playing in front of the greatest fans in the country, and now my job is to help beat them on Tuesday night."
Kentucky had four players in double-figure scoring Friday night as the Wildcats' earned an 18-point win over the visiting GSU Panthers. All-America candidate Chuck Hayes and teammate Kelenna Azubuike each score 16 points and had nine rebounds, while freshman Randolph Morris added 14 points and nine boards. Point guard Rajon Rondo also reached double figures with 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting, his first career double-figure scoring effort.
The Tennessee Tech game is Kentucky's final tune-up before the first road game of the season. The Cats travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday to face Maui Invitational champ North Carolina.
Scouting the Golden Eagles
Tennessee Tech fell to 1-2 on the season after losing at Appalachian State Saturday night. The Golden Eagles opened the season with a loss at Ole Miss on Nov. 19 before earning a 102-62 win over Virginia Intermont last week.
The Golden Eagles return two starters from a 2003-04 squad which finished 13-15. Willie Jenkins is TTU's top returner after averaging 19.5 ppg and 7.2 rpg as a junior. Milone Clark added 10.9 ppg and 4.8 rpg in 2003-04. Jenkins is averaging 19.3 ppg this season, including a 32-point performance against Virginia Intermont.
The Eagles will also look to Tennessee transfer Derek Stribling for an impact this season. Stribling is averaging 12.0 ppg after three games.
Coach Mike Sutton is in his third season at TTU, holding a 34-29 record.
KENTUCKY Pos. # Name Ht. Wt. Cl. PPG RPG Notes F 44 Chuck Hayes 6-6 242 Sr. 12.7 11.0 16 pts, 9 rebs vs. GSU F 24 Kelenna Azubuike 6-5 208 So. 9.3 6.0 16 pts, 9 rebs vs. GSU C 33 Randolph Morris 6-10 266 Fr. 10.3 5.7 14 pts, 9 rebs vs. GSU G 4 Rajon Rondo 6-1 171 Fr. 8.7 *2.7 12 pts on 4-of-4 FGs vs. GSU G 22 Patrick Sparks 6-0 180 Jr. 12.7 *4.3 7 assists, 1 turnover vs. GSU TENNESSEE TECH Pos. # Name Ht. Wt. Cl. PPG RPG Notes F 3 Ben Jacobson 6-7 215 Sr. 11.0 2.7 Scoreless vs. Cats last season F 21 Derek Stribling 6-6 210 Jr. 12.0 1.7 Transfer from Tennessee F 34 Willie Jenkins 6-6 215 Sr. 19.3 6.0 32 pts in win over Va. Intermont G 22 Milone Clark 6-4 195 Jr. 11.7 2.3 13 pts, 4 rebs vs. UK last year G 24 Keyon Boyd 6-3 195 Jr. 8.0 *5.3 18 pts in 21 mins vs. UK in 2003 *assists per game