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Men's Basketball

Kentucky vs. Tennessee: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions

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Kentucky and Tennessee will matchup in Rupp Arena.
Knecht: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports / Reeves: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

With the falloff of Louisville in recent years, the biggest rival for Kentucky basketball has undoubtedly been the Tennessee Volunteers, who will come to Lexington on Saturday for the latest installment in the series. While Kentucky dominates the series history, 160-77, the Volunteers have improved (at least in the regular season) under Rick Barnes. Over the last five seasons, the series has been split 6-6.

This season, both teams have been considered the class of the SEC, but each have shown their flaws. Kentucky cannot defend and has yet to play a game with a full roster. While Tennessee struggles to score outside of Dalton Knecht and has had trouble defending talented frontcourts.

With both teams looking to bounce back after a loss, expect another tense and competitive game inside Rupp Arena. Let’s take a look at the matchup.

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Force Others To Score

While Tennessee has been known for their defensive teams over the last few years, they have struggled to score, especially so this season. In fact, in their recent loss to South Carolina, eight of their nine players combined for 28 points. Which eludes to their saving grace, Dalton Knecht, who had 31 in that game.

Knecht is the top scorer in the SEC and has led the Vols in scoring in 15 of their 22 games this season, including six straight. Playing against some of the best defenses in the country this season, he has still found success.

While Knecht is going to get his, Kentucky needs to make it difficult on him, but even more importantly, eliminate their other options. It’s difficult for one player to win a game.

Win The Rebounding Battle

Looking closer at Tennessee’s five losses, they have lost the rebounding battle in four of them. The Volunteers are the third-best rebounding team in the SEC and generate a lot of points from second-chance opportunities.

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Tennessee will certainly be the most physical team that Kentucky has faced thus far, and potentially all season. Physicality has been an aspect that the staff has really been keying on in practice, this game will provide ample sample size to see what progress has been made.

This looks to be a game where Ugonna Onyenso and Adou Thiero will be important for their physicality and rebounding, but the team as a whole must look to win the rebounding battle and play through contact.

Make A Statement

After gifting Florida a win on Wednesday and looking lackluster over the last three games overall, Kentucky has an opportunity to make a statement against Tennessee. Playing a top-five opponent in a primetime game on ESPN, there is no better stage.

Coming off a loss, both teams will be motivated, but only one will come out with the win. If you ask Ugonna Onyenso, he’s confident that will be Kentucky. “We’ve never lost two times in a row this season. We’ve never done that. I don’t think Saturday’s gonna be the first,” Onyenso said Wednesday after the loss to Florida. “We’re looking forward to that game. For sure.”

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If Kentucky can get the win it will certainly provide a needed confidence boost for the team and the fanbase as March gets closer and closer.

Opposing Players to Watch

G Dalton Knecht, 6-6, 204 lbs

  • 20.1 PPG (1st in SEC)
  • 4.6 RPG
  • 40% 3P (13th in SEC)

G Zakai Zeigler 5-9, 171 lbs

  • 9.8 PPG
  • 5.0 APG (1st in SEC)
  • 1.7 SPG (8th in SEC)

F Jonas Aidoo, 6-11, 241 lbs

  • 11.6 PPG
  • 7.4 RPG (6th in SEC)
  • 51.9% FG

Kentucky Wildcats Basketball vs. Tennessee Volunteers

  • Time: 8:30 PM EST on February 3rd
  • Location: Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • TV Channel: ESPN
  • Announcers: Tom Hart and Jimmy Dykes will call the action for ESPN.
  • Online Stream: Stream the game online with WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
  • Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK Sports Radio Network call.
  • Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
  • Rosters: UK | UT
  • Stats to Know: UK | UT
  • KenPom: UK | UT
  • Team Sheet: UK | UT
  • Odds: ESPN’s matchup predictor has Kentucky as the underdog at home, giving them just a 41.6% chance at the win. Other projections follow suit EvanMiya having the lowest at 36.2%, Bart Torvik at 48%, while EvanMiya is at 69%.
  • PredictionsBart Torvik and Haslametrics are the kindest projections to Kentucky, expecting just a one-point and two-point loss, 80-79 and 80-78, respectively. EvanMiya went with an 80-76 win for the Vols.

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Men's Basketball

Lamont Butler Believes In Mark Pope And Will “Do Whatever It Takes To Put A Number Nine Up In Those Rafters”

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Lamont Butler transferred to Kentucky to prove that his more than just a defender.
Photo by Eddie Justice | UK Athletics

Lamont Butler has proven himself as one of the premier defenders in college basketball over the last four seasons at San Diego State, having earned MWC All-Defense honors in three straight seasons and winning the 2024 MWC Defensive Player of the Year Award.

With that level of defensive impact, Butler had no shortage of interest when he put his name in the transfer portal this Spring. In less than 48 hours after officially entering the portal, he had his decision, choosing Kentucky and becoming just the second commit of the Mark Pope era.

Butler’s parents, Lamont Butler Sr. and Carmicha Butler, recently spoke to KSR about how the family decided on Kentucky and what kind of player and young man the Wildcats are getting.

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“I can start off simply by saying that it’s Kentucky,” Lamont Sr. said. “Most kids in America, if they ever got the opportunity to play for a program like that, any kid would jump at it. With Lamont being in the position in life that he put himself in, it was the perfect move for him.”

While the brand of Kentucky Basketball is a big selling point, and one that Pope is emphasizing more than Calipari did, it was not the only selling point. The other big part was how Butler was going to be used at Kentucky, and Pope and his staff hopped on a plane to Las Vegas where he was working out, to do just that.

“We were at the gym working out, when, all of a sudden, we see the men in black coming in,” Lamont Sr. said. “I’m like, wow. It was the whole kit and caboodle. They were serious about Lamont.”

Before meeting with Butler and his family, Pope was already very familiar with his game having competed against him for three seasons at San Diego State in the MWC, and that certainly showed.

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“He practically broke Lamont’s game down,” Carmicha said. “He told him how he played, who he is, how he wanted to use him, his plans for him at Kentucky, and what he wanted to do with him. For me, it was amazing for Pope, who he never played for, to know that much detail about my son, on and off the court. That was a major plus, a major benefit.” 

Pope’s plan for Butler though is to show off his full game. While he is known as a defender, there is much more to his game, with his father highlighting his unselfishness and leadership.

“Lamont is the type of player who’s unselfish to a fault,” Lamont Sr. said. “I was telling someone, that Lamont scored 1,000 points but would’ve passed those 1,000 points up to make the right play. There are too many selfish players in the world. Everybody wants me, me, me, me, me. Lamont is about us, us, us. I told him that’s what’s going to take him far in life.” 

Those two characteristics are a big reason why Pope wants Butler on the ball, rather than off the ball which was the case most of the time he was at San Diego State.

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“It doesn’t matter to Lamont, but Pope is going to have him on the ball. That’s what a lot of people don’t know,” Lamont Sr. said. “That’s what it’s going to be, to lead the team and make sure he’s playing faster than he’s ever played.”

The primary thing though, Kentucky fans are getting a player who is willing to do whatever it takes to put another banner in the rafters.

“They’re getting somebody who’s going to give it his all on the court, injured or not,” Lamont Sr. said. “He’s going to be out there and do whatever it takes to put a number nine up in those rafters. That’s what Lamont is coming to do.”

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Men's Basketball

Trent Noah Says He Looks up to His Friend Reed Sheppard, On and Off the Court

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Noah: UK Athletics, Sheppard: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The level of high school basketball talent in Kentucky is the best it has been in several years. Last year, Kentucky fans got to witness the emergence of Reed Sheppard, and they are hopeful more of “Kentucky’s own” can help the Wildcats on the court under Mark Pope. Two such players are coming in next season, Mr. Kentucky Basketball Travis Perry of Lyon County, and Trent Noah of Harlan County.

The latter was recently interviewed by a fellow Kentucky native and former Wildcat, Cameron Mills, and the UK Sports Network. In that interview Noah not only talked about his excitement to join his home-state program and preparation for this coming season, but he also talked about looking up his friend and former teammate Reed Sheppard.

“He’s (Sheppard) such a great player. One of the best I have ever been around,” Noah told Mills. That just doesn’t stop off the court either. “He is a really good person. A really good friend. Someone I look up to.”

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Noah is just one year younger than Sheppard, but both are from the 13th region and the two formed a friendship when they were teammates for two seasons in the Adidas 3SSB Circuit with Midwest Basketball Club. What does Noah look up to Sheppard most for?

“He’s such a great leader. He’s always leading by actions. He just knows how to play. He has that natural gift. He’s always in the right spot at the right time. He obviously shoots the cover off the ball.”

Noah notes that to take some of those attributes and apply them to his game wouldn’t do anything but help them.

Toward the end of the interview, Mills asked Noah a theoretical question: “In an NBA-style three-point contest, who’s winning, you or Reed?”

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We know that Sheppard just shot the third-best three-point percentage in Kentucky basketball history, but he shot just over 30 percent in high school. Whereas Noah shot 43% (102-237) from 3-point range as a senior. With that, Noah is taking himself. “He can shoot it, but I don’t know if I can say he would beat me.”

It’s pretty cool to see the connection that Kentucky’s own have with the program and share with each other. Check out the full interview below!

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BB Recruiting

2025 Five Star, Potential Reclass Candidate Will Riley Begins Kentucky Visit

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2025 five star prospect and reclass candidate, Will Riley, takes his official visit to Kentucky June 4th-6th.
IMAGN/USA Today

Will Riley, one of the top rising seniors in the class of 2025, is set to begin a two-day official visit to Kentucky on Tuesday. This was first reported by Kentucky Insider last week.

The 6-foot-8 small forward out of Malvern, PA, is currently down to five schools: Kentucky, Arkansas, Arizona, Illinois, and Alabama, and is leaving the possibility of playing professionally in the NBL in Australia. Riley is coming off a visit to Illinois and will visit Alabama later this week.

Already considered a consensus Top 25 prospect in the country according to 247 Sports, ESPN, and Rival, Riley’s stock is only continuing to rise. His calling card is his scoring ability and he has put that on display this Spring.

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Through the first four sessions of the Nike EYBL circuit, he is averaging 21.9 points per game, on fairly efficient numbers, shooting 49.6 % from the field,  31.7 % from three-point range, and 79 % from free throws. Riley also adds 4.7 rebounds per game and 2.5 assists per game in just under 30 minutes.

A possible reclass candidate, Riley is considering making the jump from the 2025 class to the 2024 class. That decision is yet to be determined, adding an element of suspense to his potential future in college basketball.

With one current scholarship remaining for the upcoming roster, Kentucky is open to Riley reclassing and joining this year’s roster, underlining the significance of his potential addition to the team.

However, Jaxson Robinson’s commitment makes it less likely that Kentucky would be the choice if he does reclass. If he decides to remain in the 2025 class, Kentucky would remain toward the top of his list.

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Does Riley become the first top 25 recruit in the Mark Pope era?

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