Haunted history

Tennessee's basketball team has matched the greatest start in program history but it's how you finish that matters. Just ask Jerry Green.

Bruce Pearl's 2007-08 Vols are 16-1 and ranked No. 3 nationally. The only previous Big Orange squad to open so impressively was Green's 2000-01 team that also raced to a 16-1 start en route to a No. 4 national ranking.

Here's the rub: Following its blazing start, Green's '00-01 team suffered an 84-74 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena that sent the Vols into a tailspin that saw them lose 10 of their last 16 games and finish with a disappointing 22-11 record.

In a bizarre coincidence, Pearl's '07-08 Vols will be putting THEIR 16-1 record on the line tonight against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena.

Big Orange fans can only hope another Cat-astrophe isn't in the offing.

LOFTON COULD BREAK 3 MARK

Tennessee's Chris Lofton has spent most of the 2007-08 season fielding the same question: How come your shots aren't falling? Tonight he could field a new question: How does it feel to be the all-time SEC leader in 3-point baskets?

Lofton enters the Kentucky game with 362 career treys. He needs just five more to break the league record of 366 set by Arkansas's Pat Bradley between 1995 and 1999.

Working against Lofton is the fact he has made five or more 3s in a game just twice this season. He nailed eight of them (in 20 tries) against North Carolina A&T on Nov. 27 and sank five (in eight attempts) against Middle Tennessee on Nov. 20.

On the other hand, Lofton has found Lexington to his liking in the past. He was 5 of 13 on 3-pointers as a freshman in 2005 and 7 of 10 from 3 as a sophomore in 2006 before missing last year's game in Lexington due to a sprained ankle. For his college career, he is hitting a sizzling 52.2 percent (12 of 23) from beyond the arc at Rupp Arena.

IN-STATERS HELPING UT, NOT UK

Kentucky is known as a basketball hotbed, yet the 2007-08 Wildcats do not feature a single starter from the Bluegrass State. Instead, they have two starters from Michigan (West Bloomfield's Mark Coury and Detroit's Joe Crawford), one from West Virginia (Huntington's Patrick Patterson), one from New York City (Ramel Bradley) and one from Alaska (Anchorage's Ramon Harris).

Conversely, the Volunteer State – not known as a basketball hotbed – has produced three players who will start tonight for Tennessee. They are Tyler Smith (Pulaski), JaJuan Smith (Cleveland) and Wayne Chism (Bolivar).

Ironically, the only starter in tonight's game who hails from the Bluegrass State will be representing the visiting Vols. That would be Maysville native Lofton.

TONIGHT'S MAGIC NUMBER IS 80

Tennessee is 3-28 on its last 31 visits to Lexington but the Vols should improve that record to 4-28 if they can score 80 points tonight.

Since Bruce Pearl took the reins, the Big Orange is 42-4 when scoring 80 or more points. Moreover, Kentucky has allowed 80-plus points in four home games this season, losing each time. The setbacks were against Gardner Webb (84-68), North Carolina (86-77), San Diego (81-72) and Louisville (89-75).


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