What will make the difference in third Kentucky-Tennessee game?
“Respect” was a word spoken often in Tennessee’s locker room Friday night after the Volunteers beat Mississippi State 83-76 in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Team leaders Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams said Kentucky showed its disrespect of Tennessee during the 86-69 victory over the Vols on Feb. 16 in Rupp Arena.
“This is a big-time rivalry for us,” Schofield said of Saturday’s UK-UT game in the SEC Tournament semifinals. “I don’t know about for them. Because we sense they don’t respect us as much.”
Williams described the attitude of UK players toward the Vols was “these dudes have all this hype, but they’re not that good.
“That’s the mindset that they have . . . ,” he added. “Even saying it on the court.”
Late in the game, the crowd in Rupp Arena directed an over-rated, over-rated chant at Tennessee. UK Coach John Calipari successfully got the crowd to stop the chant.
Schofield downplayed the assumption that Tennessee will seek to gain Kentucky’s respect on Saturday.
“At the end of the day, it’s not a respect thing for us,” he said. “We just like to go out and compete. We like to be respected as competitors. Sometimes we play certain teams we can sense we are not respected. We can say with confidence we didn’t feel (respected in Lexington). And that’s why we came out and played the way we did in Knoxville. Because we didn’t feel we were respected.”
Tennessee beat Kentucky 71-52 in Thompson-Boling Arena on March 2.
“Credit to them,” Schofield said of the first UK-UT game. “Why would you respect us? They played us hard. They pushed us around (and) threw us around. We didn’t fight back.
“We’re on neutral ground. New fight. New game. It’s 1-1. Both teams fighting for a championship.”
No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Tennessee
When: About 3:30 p.m. EDT (Kentucky-Tennessee is the second game of an SEC Tournament semifinal doubleheader in Nashville featuring Auburn vs. Florida in the opening game at 1 p.m.)
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1
Records: Kentucky 27-5, Tennessee 28-4
Series: Kentucky leads 155-72
Last meeting: Tennessee won 71-52 on March 2, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn.