Morris is one big Cat

Here's all you need to know about today's Tennessee-Kentucky basketball game at Rupp Arena: The Big Blue's best player is Randolph Morris, a 6-11, 259-pounder who averages 15.9 points per game. The Big Orange's best player is … injured.

All-America guard Chris Lofton, who sparked the Vols to a 75-67 win last year at Rupp, is likely to sit this one out due to a sprained right ankle. All he did in his last visit to Lexington was hit 11 of 18 field-goal tries, including 7 of 10 from beyond the arc, and score 31 points.

Lofton's performance wasn't too surprising, however. A native of Maysville, Ky., he historically does well against his home-state university. In five meetings with the Wildcats he is hitting 46.8 percent (22 of 47) from 3-point range and averaging 18.4 points per game.

With Lofton likely to be sidelined, the game's marquee player is Morris. He dominated in Kentucky's 80-78 win at Knoxville last March, hitting 8 of 9 floor shots en route to a 22-point, 9-rebound, 2-block performance. Obviously, he'll be a huge test today for Tennessee's freshman post duo of Wayne Chism (6-9, 240) and Duke Crews (6-7, 233).

"Kentucky has good inside/outside stuff," UT head coach Bruce Pearl said this week. "They've got good size all around. Randolph Morris is obviously going to be a huge target for them. That's going to be the game plan – go inside against Tennessee – and there's no doubt that's what Kentucky will try to do."

Kentucky's other starters are 6-8 senior Bobby Perry (6.8 points per game), 6-5 junior Joe Crawford (14.8), 6-2 junior Ramel Bradley (12.8) and 6-6 freshman Derrick Jasper (5.1). When Morris needs a breather, he is replaced by an even bigger man – 7-1, 265-pound Lukasz Obrzut.

The Wildcats are a so-so offensive team but they are a magnificent defensive team. They limit their foes to 37.7 percent field-goal shooting, which ranks No. 6 nationally. Four of their six SEC foes to date managed 60 points or less. Kentucky also is an excellent passing team. Both Bradley (3.7) and Jasper (3.5) average more assists per game than Vol point guard Ramar Smith (3.0).

In addition to significant advantages in size and experience, Kentucky boasts a huge home-floor advantage. The Big Blue is 80-16 when playing Tennessee in Lexington. Still, the Wildcats are vulnerable. They've lost their last two games, falling at home to Vanderbilt and blowing a 17-point lead in an overtime setback at Georgia. Prior to that, however, they had won 11 games in a row.

As Pearl noted: "They were the hottest team in the country before Vanderbilt went in there and got ‘em."

Tipoff for today's game is 1 p.m. with national television coverage provided by CBS.


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