"We have not been able to get Jodie out there. I would not have expected Jodie to miss as much as he has. He is working as hard as he can, but bless his heart he is not able to get back out there. We hope he will before long and if he does, we will continue to improve."
Kentucky beat Tennessee 72-66 on Jan. 22 for coach Billy Gillispie's first signature victory at UK.
Patrick Patterson had 20 points and eight rebounds while Ramel Bradley had 16 points and Perry Stevenson 14. The Wildcats held Tennessee to three field goals in the final 10 minutes to snap the Volunteers' 11-game win streak. Tennessee was just 7-for-26 from 3-point range and shot only 39 percent from the field overall.
"They missed some shots they normally make, and have since then. One thing, they also had a lot of foul trouble and we played pretty well foul free. We were able to make some shots we had not been making to that point, too," Gillispie said.
Kentucky was 24-for-28 at the foul line against Tennessee. The Vols were 15-for-21.
Cats still on upswing
Tennessee coach Bruce Peal says the Cats were on an uptick the first time the teams played. They had beat Vanderbilt in double overtime and barely lost at Florida and Mississippi State. UK carries a four-game win streak into Sunday's game.
"They came home and were also healthy. They had their roster back and that gave them a tremendous shot in the arm to get that depth back," Pearl said. "They have found a formula for success and it is with ball control, patience and making sure the ball is in the hands of three guys (Patterson, Bradley and Joe Crawford) that can score it.
"Obviously, Billy Gillispie's teams play great defense. They are an intelligent team. With all things equal down the stretch with us, it seemed like in the last four or five minutes we had to make baskets and they were shooting free throws because of their smart play."
Tennessee was playing its third game in six days when it lost at Kentucky. However, this time it is in the midst of a stretch where it will play consecutive games against Memphis, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Florida.
"We are obviously playing for a championship. I think we will be more rested than we have been in a while. In a run to a conference championship, every game is a big emotional game, though," Pearl said.
" When it comes to Tennessee and you are talking Memphis, Vandy, Kentucky and Florida, it doesn't get any bigger or better than that. It is going to take great emotion and passion in every case. We will definitely be more rested for Sunday than we were at Vanderbilt or Kentucky on those Tuesday nights (when Tennessee lost each time)."
Gillispie knows Tennessee is coming off "two unbelievable games" with then No. 1 Memphis and Vanderbilt. Former Mason County standout Chris Lofton had 25 points at Vanderbilt while Tyler Smith, despite battling the flu, had 11 points and 17 rebounds. Tennessee was 20-of-61 from the field in the game.
"I think they are very, very consistent. They play on both ends of the court," Gillispie said. "They get a lot of recognition for being a great offensive team. But they are also a great defensive team.
"They do all things well, and that's why they are No. 1 in the country. Coach (Pearl) has done a great job developing this team and the program. It is a long term deal. They are very, very good."