History lesson

When Tennessee hosts No. 2 Florida tonight it will be the Vols' second game in a row against an opponent ranked in the top five nationally. UT lost 88-74 at No. 4 Memphis on Wednesday.

Oddly enough, this is not the first time the Big Orange has faced top-five foes in back-to-back games. It isn't even the second time. It's the THIRD time.

Tennessee faced No. 2 Auburn and No. 1 Kentucky in the last two games of the 1958-59 season. The Vols nipped the Tigers 56-55 on Feb. 23 but lost 69-56 to the Big Blue on Feb. 28. Both games were played in Knoxville.

Tennessee faced a similar challenge to open the 1965-66 season, visiting No. 2 Michigan on Dec. 1 in Game 1, then hosting No. 4 Vanderbilt on Dec. 7 in Game 2. The Vols came up short each time, losing 71-63 to the Wolverines and 53-50 to the Commodores.

The last time Tennessee hosted a team ranked No. 2 nationally was Feb. 17, 1996. Rick Pitino's Kentucky Wildcats hammered Kevin O'Neill's Vols by a 90-50 score that day.

On a positive note, the setting for tonight's game with Florida is pretty similar to 2003-04, when the Gators brought a No. 4 national ranking into Thompson-Boling Arena. UT notched a 66-59 upset that evening in what proved to be coach Buzz Peterson's high point.

It also proved to be his last hurrah, however. The Vols lost their next four games in a row and went 31-37 the rest of Peterson's tenure.

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