Big Blue vs. Big Orange

Bulls respond dramatically to the color red; that's why matadors wave red capes. Similarly, Tennessee basketball players respond dramatically to the color blue … the Big Blue of Kentucky, to be specific.

That could be a factor tonight when the Vols – losers in two of their last three games – try to bounce back against a Wildcat team that is trying to play its way into the NCAA Tournament. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena.

With Tennessee coming off a late-game collapse on Saturday that produced a home-floor loss to Arkansas, you might expect UT's players to be a little flat tonight. That isn't likely to be the case, however. Blue uniforms tend to incite the Vols, much as red capes incite bulls. In that sense, it's probably good that the Big Orange is playing a name opponent like the Big Blue tonight.

"Yeah, it's good," senior point guard C.J. Watson says. "That's why the SEC's so good. You can't really rest. You've got to bring it every night."

The Vols didn't "bring it" against Arkansas and paid dearly. They say they won't make that mistake again.

"We just need to come out with a different focus," Watson said. "We just need to focus more on defense than offense."

Tennessee (20-5 overall, 11-3 SEC) should have little trouble staying focused against a heated rival like Kentucky. Even with the Wildcats (18-10, 8-6) struggling a bit this season, they still tend to bring out the best in Tennessee. First-year Vol coach Bruce Pearl already recognizes that.

"The success of our program is built around our success against Kentucky," Pearl said. "I know it's very important from that standpoint."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories