Movable object versus resistible force describes Sunday's latest edition of the Kentucky-Tennessee rivalry.
UK has been reminded ad nauseam of its 1-6 road record in Southeastern Conference play. Until this season, proud Kentucky had lost as many as five SEC road games only once since the league went to divisional play in 1991-92.
When asked if that record provides incentive going to Knoxville, point guard Brandon Knight said, "Yeah. Definitely. Just to prove to ourselves we can do it."
Tennessee had been nearly invincible in Thompson-Boling Arena in Bruce Pearl's first five seasons as coach. A 70-8 home record under Pearl told visitors to beware. So quite the surprise that the Vols can match those eight home losses this season alone if Kentucky prevails.
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"We just want to get a home win," said Pearl, whose team is 10-7 at home this season. "We haven't had a home win in a while."
Since Jan. 26, the Vols have won once in four home games.
A six-man rotation that includes three freshmen goes a long way toward explaining Kentucky's road losses. One of those freshmen, Terrence Jones, noted how a win at Tennessee could invigorate the Cats going into the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
"Very important," he said. "Just to win to get our confidence going."
Of course, Kentucky has come oh-so-close to winning just about every SEC road game, the six losses coming by a combined 18 points (four by a total of seven points).
That maddening repetitiveness aside, UK Coach John Calipari took solace in the home victories over Florida and Vanderbilt in the previous eight days.
"The last two built some confidence for us," he said.
When asked what made the difference in the possession-by-possession test against Vandy, Calipari said, "They held onto the rope," presumably a way of saying the players did not let the growing tension cause straying from the team concept.
Kentucky also took comfort in the steady-as-he-goes free-throw shooting of Jones and Knight. The pair made seven of eight free throws in the final 96 seconds against Vandy.
More than once, Calipari has saluted the clutch free-throwing by the freshmen in the Vandy game and their overall impact.
"Nobody is asking their freshmen to do more than we are," the UK coach said. "It's not even close."
Many teams might desire contributions from freshmen. But, Calipari said, those contributions from freshmen are essential to UK's success.
Kentucky and Tennessee agreed that rebounding might be a decisive factor in determining if the Cats break through on the road or the Vols get a relatively rare home victory.
Tennessee acknowledged Friday that Kentucky set the physical tone when the teams played last month. UK outrebounded the Vols 38-25 in winning 73-61 in Rupp Arena. That marked the only time all season an opponent has outrebounded Tennessee by double digits this season.
Or, as Steven Pearl succinctly put it, "They kicked the crap out of us.''
Physical play, including rebounding, figures to be a key factor in the rematch. UT ranks third in rebound margin (second in offensive rebounding) among SEC teams.
Pearl said the Wildcats will provide more of a challenge, even if Brian Williams is back in the lineup. Williams, who along with freshman Tobias Harris leads the Vols in rebounding, hadn't practiced since hurting his back against Mississippi State on Feb. 26.
Bruce Pearl noted Friday that he hoped Williams returned to practice Saturday. Calipari said he expected Williams to play Sunday.
"The rebounding thing is a huge factor," the UT coach said. "Kentucky beat us by 10 on the boards (38-28) when we played them. Kentucky was the more physical team in Lexington, and we haven't been 'out-physicaled' often. But we were that night, for sure, and it wasn't even close."
The Cats also noted rebounding as a key factor.
"Very important," Darius Miller said. "They do a great job crashing the boards. All of them go to the boards very hard."
"Rebounding is important in every game," he said. "Usually the team with the most rebounds wins."