Zero and seven

C.J. Watson has accomplished a lot as a Tennessee Vol – 1000-plus points, 500-plus assists, more than 180 steals. One thing he hasn't accomplished is beating Kentucky. Not in Knoxville. Not in Lexington. Not in the SEC Tournament. Not anytime or anywhere.

Watson and fellow senior Stanley Asumnu are 0-7 all-time against the Wildcats, and both would like to right that wrong. Asked if that might be an extra motivation heading into Tuesday night's game at Rupp Arena, Watson shook his head.

"That IS our motivation – just going out there and beating them," he said. "They're in the way of the SEC championship, and we're trying to get that."

Tennessee's path to the SEC championship runs through Lexington. The Vols are 7-1 in league play, one game ahead of 6-2 Florida, so a victory Tuesday night would be a key step toward winning the conference championship.

"That's going to be a big game from us," Watson said. "That's going to separate us from Kentucky and Florida. Hopefully, we can come out with a big win."

Asumnu hopes so, too. Losing to UK is a habit he'd love to break.

"I'm excited," he said. "It's a great opportunity to go to Rupp and play an ESPN game. And it's a great opportunity for us to go out and get a win. They're a good team but we feel confident. We're going in there, play like we've been playing and try to come back with a win."

Tennessee has one victory to show for its last 27 trips to Lexington, that being a 47-46 squeaker on Jan. 12, 1999. Clearly, the odds are not on the Vols' side against the Wildcats.

"We're going to have our hands full. They're going to have their hands full," UT guard JaJuan Smith said. "It's going to be a good game."

First-year Vol coach Bruce Pearl has never toured the hallowed ground of Rupp Arena as a visiting coach, so he's looking forward to the opportunity.

"We'll be excited about going to Rupp Arena on Tuesday and trying to represent," he said. "That's one of those history and tradition games. I promise you I will be very, very honored to be on the floor coaching Tennessee against Kentucky."

As a tribute to former Vol coaching legend Ray Mears, Pearl wore an orange jacket last Wednesday against Vanderbilt. He plans to bring out the jacket again for Tuesday's game against the Big Blue, Mears' other chief rival.

"Yes," Pearl said. "I'll wear the orange jacket against Vanderbilt and Kentucky in honor of Coach Mears."

One Vol who is especially eager to face the Wildcats is Chris Lofton, a Maysville, Ky., native who was not recruited by the Big Blue. Though he is UT's leading scorer, Lofton produced just 7 points against Vanderbilt and 12 against Ole Miss in the Vols' past two games. Still, UT's coach isn't worried about the 6-2 sharpshooter.

Said Pearl: "I think he's just saving it."

For Tuesday night presumably.


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