The Vols' chances of winning Saturday's rematch in Knoxville go way up if they can contain Patterson and Cousins in similar fashion but that's asking a lot ... an awful lot.
Patterson and Cousins rank 1-2 among Southeastern Conference players in field-goal percentage at 58.5 and 54.5, respectively. They also rank 1-2 in offensive rebounding - Cousins leading at 4.46 per game, Patterson next at 3.46 per game. Cousins is No. 2 among SEC players in total rebounds (10.2 per game), No. 5 in blocked shots (1.64 per game) and No. 6 in scoring (16.3 points per game). Patterson is fifth in overall rebounds (7.6 per game) and 11th in scoring (15.1 points per game).
Two more factors make the task of containing Patterson and Cousins nearly impossible:
1. The Vols surprised Kentucky with a 3-2 zone last time but the Wildcats have had two weeks to prepare for it in the rematch.
With the element of surprise missing and Chism limping, Tennessee will need for someone to step up in a big way on the inside. Freshman Kenny Hall is hoping to be that guy.
After acknowledging that facing players the caliber of Patterson and Cousins is "a challenge," the 6-9, 220-pound Hall added: "But I've got a lot of confidence. My confidence is my motivation. Knowing my team is focused as well as I am and all of my teammates want this game as bad as I do is the motivation."
Hall may have been a little too motivated last time Tennessee and Kentucky met. He picked up four fouls in just 13 minutes at Rupp Arena two weeks ago, finishing with zero points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Despite a limited contribution from Hall, Tennessee had Kentucky on the ropes that day, leading 52-50 with 10 minutes to go. The Big Blue closed with a big rally, however, and prevailed 73-62.
"We wasn't able to finish the game," Hall recalled, unable to stifle a frown. "At the end they took over. That was pretty much it."
Tennessee was able to "finish the game" quite well in a 76-68 upset of No. 1 Kansas back on Jan. 10 in Knoxville. But the Vols seemed to run out of gas at Lexington, a problem that is not likely to be repeated in Saturday's rematch. The availability of Cameron Tatum (who missed the earlier game with a sprained ankle) and Brian Williams (who played just one minute coming off a nine-game suspension) gives Tennessee two more able bodies to run at the Wildcats. In addition, the Vols have worked hard on conditioning the past two weeks.
"We've been doing a lot of running and stuff to keep our stamina at the end of games," Hall said. "That's where we kind of fell off in that game."
Even with no contribution from Tatum, a minimal contribution from Williams and more fouls than points from Hall, Tennessee gave Kentucky a scare in the earlier meeting. The Vols see that as cause for optimism as they prepare for the rematch.
"Oh, yeah. Most definitely," Hall said. "We believe we should've beaten them, and we want to be the first team in the nation to beat two No. 1 seeds (Kansas and Kentucky)."