Louisville is riding a 12 game winning streak and has not lost since an 86-84 defeat at the hands of Purdue on November 30. The game with Tennessee is the first of two upcoming showdowns with out-of-conference opponents in the next week. The Cardinals will take on Indiana on February 1.
"Generally, when we step out of conference, it is to face great competition," said head coach Rick Pitino. "I think it is great competition and it certainly helps your RPI and you always want to do that as the season goes on."
The Volunteers (9-5, 2-3 SEC) enter the game off a heartbreaking 81-76 overtime loss to No. 19 Georgia on Wednesday, but return home to Thompson-Boling Arena where they are 8-1.
The Louisville defense has been the key in their long winning streak. The Cardinal have held their last 10 opponents under 40 percent shooting, something never before done at Louisville.
That trend will need to continue against Tennessee. The Vols bring a formidable inside-outside combination with 6-foot-8 senior Ron Slay (21.6 ppg. 7.9 rbg.) underneath and freshman guard C.J. Watson (9.7 ppg 5.5 apg) on the perimeter.
Watson, Jon Higgins and Thaydeus Higgins are shooting over 50 percent from three-point range in Southeastern Conference games and the Volunteers are shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc as a team. Tennessee is also out rebounding opponents by 7.1 boards per game.
"Tennessee is going to give us a lot of problems offensively, because they switch defenses so much," Pitino said. "They are coming off a very difficult loss at Georgia. This is a very strong team and this one will probably go down to the last minute of play."
Tip-off for tomorrow's contest is 5 p.m. in Knoxville on ESPN2.