Vols looking for 'huge' win

UT basketball star Ron Slay isn't one to mince words. Asked how big Wednesday night's game with visiting Kentucky is, he answered without hesitation.

''It's huge. We've had a lot of restless nights since Saturday, trying to go to sleep ... waiting on Kentucky. I've been getting calls from everybody -- Erik (Daniels), Charles Hayes, (Keith) Bogans. They're letting me know they're going to come ready.''

Jon Higgins, Tennessee's other senior starter, says facing the Big Blue is a good measuring stick for the Vol program.

"It's big,'' he said. ''It's our first conference game and it's against a quality opponent. It's one of our first real tests of the season, and it's the first ranked opponent of the season. It's big but I think we're going to be ready to play.''

Whereas Higgins and Slay have faced Kentucky six times previously, this will be the first look at the Big Blue for Vol newcomers C.J. Watson, John Winchester, Stanley Asumnu and Boomer Herndon. Odds are, the four rookies will be surprised by the level of intensity.

"The freshmen don't really understand the magnitude of it -- what it's going to be like on Wednesday -- so we just try to tell them that they've seen nothing like it,'' Higgins said. ''The fans are going to be wild, and they'll feel the intensity as soon as they walk in the door. We're trying to get them ready for that.''

Kentucky is 9-3 and ranked 20th nationally. Tennessee is unranked but brings a 7-2 record into the game -- the losses coming at Texas A&M and at West Virginia. The Vols haven't lost at home but, then again, they haven't faced an opponent nearly as talented as Kentucky. How big would a victory over the Wildcats be?

''It'd be really big,'' sophomore forward Derek Stribling said. ''It'd give us a lot of momentum, and we'd be on a three-game winning streak.''

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