The timing was as bad as the venue for Tennessee on Tuesday night.
The basketball Vols typically have less chance of winning at Rupp Arena than the football Vols have of winning in the Georgia Dome. But this scenario was worse than typical.
You might have figured that out while watching the revved-up Wildcats run past a UT team that seemed stuck in a lower gear. Kentucky coach John Calipari addressed his team's motivation afterwards on his post-game radio show.
Too bad UT coach Bruce Pearl was doing his own radio show from courtside at the same time. He didn't have a chance to take notes.
The Calipari message that resonated with the Wildcats was similarly suitable for the Vols after the 73-61 loss.
Kentucky wobbled into the UT game following back-to-back losses to Ole Miss and Florida. Another defeat would have doused their hopes for a regular-season SEC championship.
Now, it's the Vols who are backpedaling. They have lost successive games to Alabama and Kentucky. Up next: SEC East-leading Florida in Gainesville on Saturday.
Remember when Pearl referred to the UT-Vanderbilt game as a "must win" after back-to-back losses to Arkansas and Florida in January? A must win in February has more desperate connotations.
The Vols can't drop another game to the Gators and realistically aspire to win an SEC championship. The situation demands their best, which is just what Kentucky produced against UT.
Its production was preceded by creative preparation.
Calipari showed up at practice with a team's worth of boxing gloves and a couple of heavy bags. His cross-training was more figurative than physical.
"I was trying to tell them this is a dog fight," Calipari told his radio audience and the enthralled fans still remaining in the arena. "I did (the boxing regimen) two straight days. It's a mentality we had to change."
The coach said he gave his players a few, quick boxing lessons; then expressed amazement at how skillfully some of them responded. He was even more impressed by the carryover effect on the court. The Wildcats played with a newfound energy and toughness, as well as sense of urgency that so often has been missing from a team that relies more on talent than experience.
Their transformation brought out the worst in UT, which languished in comparison. The Vols' sluggish start suggested they had been peppered with jabs to the forehead before they were hit by a barrage of Kentucky's 3-pointers in the first 12 minutes.
Lack of effort seldom has been an issue for the Vols in SEC play. It certainly shouldn't be for the Kentucky rematch, which is apt to go UT's way at Thompson-Boling Arena.
But Florida, not Kentucky, is the upcoming concern. And the Vols can't afford to gradually ease their way onto what should be another fast track.
Double-digit deficits don't discourage this team. It came back from 17 points down to beat Vanderbilt last month. It overcame a 12-point deficit before losing to Alabama.
The comebacks are commendable. What precedes them isn't, especially if they occur on the road against the likes of Kentucky or Florida.
Better to come out fighting.