The last two trips Kentucky made to Tennessee did not end well for the Wildcats.
Two years ago, Kentucky blew a 21-point lead in an 84-77 loss to Tennessee. Last year, the Volunteers led for the vast majority of an 82-80 win over the Wildcats.
Kentucky coach John Calipari isn't expecting Saturday's visit to Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., to be any easier, when the 17-ranked Wildcats take on the 23rd-ranked Volunteers in an SEC battle between teams off to opposite starts in conference play.
"They're desperate," Calipari said of the Volunteers, who are off to an 0-2 start in SEC play. "They've got to have it. We've got to have it. Let's see what will happen."
For the first times this season, Tennessee (9-4) has lost consecutive games. The Volunteers returned home from a 95-93 overtime loss at Arkansas and surrendered 94 points in a loss to Auburn on Tuesday, causing coach Rick Barnes to question his team's effort.
"If nothing else, what I would hope they've learned is if we don't play that way (with effort and intensity), I hope they realize that we're not a very good basketball team," Barnes said Friday.
The Wildcats (12-2, 2-0 SEC) have bounced back from a home loss to UCLA with three straight wins, including a blowout of Louisville and consecutive SEC victories over Georgia and LSU to open conference play. PJ Washington scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half against LSU, rallying Kentucky for a hard-fought, 74-71 road win.
"We got punched in the mouth in the first half. They were the aggressors and we let them attack us," said Kentucky freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who came off the bench to score 18 points against LSU. "We had to come out in the second half and be the aggressors. ... We did that and that's why we won."
Calipari is expecting another fight Saturday in Knoxville.
"Will you battle and fight?" Calipari said. "Our teams historically would do that. Anytime you don't, you're losing, because the other team is going to play. They're playing you (Kentucky). They're going to show up, and it's going to mean something, and they're going to have a little extra."
Barnes certainly expects an intense effort from his Vols.
"When Kentucky, like North Carolina -- schools that have had great success -- come into town, there's a different buzz in the building," Barnes said.
"You like to think that they're going to be on edge all the time. That's why it's hard to explain when guys aren't as consistent as you want to be, but that's sports. What you'd like to have is guys understanding that every game you've got to be on edge, you've got to be ready to play regardless of who you play."
Tennessee sophomore guard Jordan Bone was diagnosed with the flu after the loss to Auburn on Wednesday. Barnes said he was hoping Bone would be back for Friday's practice.
Bone is averaging 9.3 points, one of five Volunteers averaging more than nine points per game. Grant Williams leads the team in scoring (15.6) and rebounding (6.7).
Kentucky is one of the youngest teams in the nation, with eight freshmen on the roster. Freshman forward Kevin Knox leads the Wildcats in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (6.0).
The game is an announced sellout.