By Dr. John Huang
Die-hard Kentucky fans know that Knoxville is a hard place to play. For whatever reason, Kentucky never seems to win in Thompson-Boling Arena. Dating back to the days of Ernie and Bernie, victories over Tennessee have been too few and far between.
After their stellar performances against Mississippi State the other night, Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery appeared more than ready to take on their next major challenge–an all expenses paid trip down I-75 to take on the Big Orange.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Richards explained. “Honestly, between them and Florida, those are the most exciting games for me. Going to Tennessee, it gets loud, it gets hectic.”
Bad memories abound
I’m sure Nick remembers last year in Knoxville when Tennessee blitzed Kentucky 71-52. The Cats trailed by just one point when sophomore forward PJ Washington picked up his second foul with 8:23 remaining in the first half. Tennessee would go on to outscore Kentucky 18-6 for the rest of the half while Washington sat on the bench. In that span, Nick and EJ were each whistled for their third fouls as the Cats went 9:32 without a field goal.
“Last year it wasn’t too good,” EJ told me. “It was a great atmosphere though. But we’re trying to go there and try to get a “W” next time.”
Vols not that good
That’s so much easier said than done. Even in a year like this, when Tennessee just isn’t that good (13-9, 5-4 SEC)–having lost Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield to the NBA, and star point guard Lamonte Turner to injury–the Vols will most likely play out of their minds and probably find a way to win.
Tennessee is coming off of a 69-68 road win at Alabama, breaking a previous three-game losing streak. They’re led this year by senior Jordan Bowden, who’s averaging 13 points a game, and juniors John Fulkerson (12 ppg) and Yves Pons (11 ppg).
With another year of experience under their belts, here’s hoping Nick and EJ can dominate the paint, neutralize the Thompson-Boling crowd, and finally bring home that elusive win.
“I just love playing at Tennessee,” Nick emphasized. “It’s a great environment to play in.”
We’ll see. I’ll be there to find out.