SCOUTING TENNESSEE Tennessee is tied with LSU atop the SEC standings, moving to 7-1 in league play after earning an 86-72 win over Ole Miss in Knoxville Saturday. Overall, the 13th-ranked Vols are 16-3 and are enjoying their highest ranking since being 10th on Feb. 5, 2001. Guards Chris Lofton and C.J. Watson are each averaging 15.7 ppg, while Watson adds 4.3 apg. The two are threats from deep as well, as Lofton has hit 63 three-pointers this year (.414), while Watson is shooting .451 from long range. Bruce Pearl, the former Wisconsin-Milwaukee head coach, is in his first season at Tennessee. Pearl, who also coached nine years at Southern Indiana, has led his teams to postseason play in 12 of 13 seasons. SERIES HISTORY Kentucky has played Tennessee more than any other opponent. This marks the 200th meeting between the schools, which first met on the hardwood Feb. 16, 1910 - a 26-5 UK win. It was the first future SEC team the Wildcats ever played. The Cats own a 137-62 advantage in the series. UK has won 10 of the last 11 over the Vols, including eight in a row. The Wildcats own an 81-15 advantage in Lexington. Tennessee, which won two of its first three games at Rupp Arena, is 3-27 all-time against UK at Rupp. The Vols last win in Rupp came in 1999. Tubby Smith is 17-5 all-time against Tennessee, including a 13-4 mark at Kentucky. This is Bruce Pearls first game against the Wildcats.
UK-UT CONNECTIONS Tennessee starting guard Chris Lofton is a native of Maysville, Ky., an hours drive from Lexington, and attended Mason County High School. He led his team to the 2003 Sweet 16 title, defeating Lexington Catholic and its senior guard Brian Smith, son of Tubby Smith. Two Kentucky Mr. Basketballs will be on the floor this weekend. UTs Chris Lofton won the award last season. Kentuckys Brandon Stockton was named the states top prep player in 2002 out of Glasgow High School. Another Kentucky Mr. Basketball, recent UK graduate Josh Carrier (2002-05) of Bowling Green, is on the UK staff. UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart worked in administration at Tennessee from 1986-98, the last four years serving as the senior associate athletics director.
CARDIAC CATS Kentucky has won five of its last six games, but it hasnt been easy. In three of the six games, the Wildcats have rallied from double-digit deficits. UK has also trailed by double figures in three of its four home SEC games, winning two of those (vs. South Carolina and Arkansas). These rallies are nothing new to Tubby Smith, whose first UK squad earned the moniker Comeback Cats after overcoming double-digit deficits in its last three games to claim the 1998 national title. Over the last two seasons, UK has won seven games in which theyve trailed by 10 or more. UKS DOUBLE-DIGIT COMEBACKS (LAST TWO SEASONS) Deficit (Tm, Half) Opp. (Date) Final -18 (3:38, 1st) Arkansas (1/29/06) 78-76 -16 (11:10, 2nd) Louisville (12/18/04) 60-58 -15 (0:15, 1st) Ole Miss (1/19/05) 53-50 -14 (3:33, 1st) Alabama (2/26/05) 78-71 -12 (12:40, 2nd) South Carolina (1/21/06) 80-78 -11 (2:20, 1st) Florida (2/8/05) 69-66 -10 (13:17, 1st) Georgia (1/17/06) 69-55 UK LEADS SEC IN POINTS PER POSSESSION Kentucky is currently fourth in the SEC with a 71.9 scoring average in league games. However, UK leads the conference in points per possession in SEC play.
SPARKS 8TH IN CONSECUTIVE STARTS According to STATS, Inc., senior guard Patrick Sparks is currently eighth nationally in consecutive starts by an active player with 103. The Central City, Ky., native has started all 56 games he has played as a Wildcat after starting his final 47 games at Western Kentucky.
WITCHING STARTERS Tubby Smith has started eight different starting lineups in UKs 22 games this season. In the two previous seasons (2003-04 and 2004-05), Smith used just three different starting lineups total (excluding senior day lineups). UK VS. SEC WEST Kentucky owns a 73-18 record against SEC West teams since the league split into divisions in 1992 and has won 26 of its last 27 contests against teams from the West. UKs loss to Alabama on Jan. 14 snapped a 23- game win streak to West foes. This season, UK is 3-1 against the West. Tubby Smith is 51-12 against the West teams in his nine seasons at UK and 61-22 overall. BIG BLUE BIRTHDAY Sophomore Ramel Bradley celebrated his 21st birthday on Sunday, Feb. 5.
SEC THROWBACKS The Southeastern Conference will celebrate its history later this month during SEC Throwback Week (Feb. 18-26). Each member school designated a previous year's uniform as its throwback uniform to use in association with the program. Kentuckys throwback uniforms are patterned after those worn by the Wildcats from the mid- 1970s until the early-1980s. UK will wear the uniforms in games against South Carolina (Feb. 18), Ole Miss (Feb. 22) and LSU (Feb. 25). The throwbacks will also be worn for all games of the 2006 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament, March 9-12 in Nashville, Tennessee. The "throwback" theme has been incorporated into many aspects of the SEC Tournament, including the Official Tournament logo and court design. SEC DOMINATION Since the SECs inception in 1932-33, the Wildcats have been the most dominant team in the league, recording a 828-220 mark (.790). No other team has won more than 675 regular-season SEC games (Alabama) and no other team has a better winning percentage. UK has averaged 11.4 wins and 3.0 losses per season in 72 seasons in the SEC. The Wildcats have won 43 SEC titles and 25 SEC Tournament Championships, more than the other 11 teams combined. Kentucky has won 10 of the last 14 SEC Tournament titles. UK has won 11 SEC East titles in the 14 seasons since the league expanded. Tubby Smith is in his 11th season in the SEC this year - including two at Georgia and eight previous years at Kentucky. In SEC regular-season play, hes 126-42 (.750), the third-best league win percentage of all-time. Hes captured five SEC Championships and seven SEC Eastern Division crowns in eight seasons in the Bluegrass. He also owns a 21-5 record in 10 SEC Tournaments, winning five titles.