Mike Strange: 'Great ones' can win at Rupp

Mike Strange
Tennessee teammates Major Wingate, left, and Stanley Asumnu cheer from the sidelines after Chris Lofton scored two of his team-high 31 points against Kentucky at Rupp Arena in UT's 75-67 win on Feb. 7, 2006.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee teammates Major Wingate, left, and Stanley Asumnu cheer from the sidelines after Chris Lofton scored two of his team-high 31 points against Kentucky at Rupp Arena in UT's 75-67 win on Feb. 7, 2006.

Cuonzo Martin on the upcoming game at Kentucky

Dane Bradshaw still remembers the remarkable feeling from that night six years ago. Watching Kentucky fans exiting Rupp Arena, knowing the game was over, even though the clock hadn't hit zero.

Coach Bruce Pearl, in his orange blazer, shouted one final instruction as Tennessee dribbled out the final seconds of a 75-67 triumph.

"He told us to act like we'd been there before,'' Bradshaw said Monday. "But it was hard, because we hadn't been there before.''

When it comes to beating Kentucky in Rupp, not many people have been there before.

The Vols return to Rupp tonight, their 37th visit since the building opened in 1976-77. They've left a winner only four times.

Some SEC teams have done worse. A few have done better.

Alabama and Florida each have six wins in Rupp to take honors. Alabama's six are more impressive, considering the Tide visits only every other year since the SEC expanded in 1991-92.

LSU has five wins. Georgia joins the Vols at four.

Five schools have two wins. Vanderbilt didn't break through until 2006. Auburn hasn't won in Rupp since 1988.

Ole Miss has celebrated only once, in 1998.

"It's far and away the toughest place I ever played,'' said Bradshaw, "and far and away, the most fun place to get a win at.''

All time, Kentucky is 472-60 in Rupp. Of the 60 losses, only 36 were administered by SEC foes.

Tennessee was the second visitor to win in Rupp (after Utah) in 1977. The Vols won again in 1979, then waited two decades until a 47-46 upset in 1999.

Pearl won his first trip behind Chris Lofton's banner night, but never again.

"We were a team with a ton of confidence,'' Bradshaw said of the outfit that shocked the SEC by winning the Eastern Division.

The current Vols don't appear to carry a ton of confidence to Lexington. They're plagued by turnovers, many of them unforced. Their offense has gone south just as their defense has improved. They haven't won a road game.

Even though they played Kentucky to the wire in Knoxville 17 days ago, at UT win tonight against the No. 1-ranked Wildcats might qualify as the shocker of the college basketball season.

Coach Cuonzo Martin will do everything in his even-keeled arsenal to infuse his team with a jolt of confidence. He'll tell them that if they defend and rebound and take care of the ball, they'll be there at the end and anything can happen.

"You go play, have some fun and compete,'' Martin said. "Going on the road, you want a hostile environment.

"The great ones love that environment.''

Martin has won in Rupp, but not against Kentucky. He helped Purdue win two NCAA tournament games there in 1994.

"I think it'll be exciting,'' he said of coaching against the Wildcats in their den.

That's one way of putting it.

The crowd tonight will exceed 24,000. Orange will be sparse. Communication will be difficult at best and at times impossible.

If the Vols go on a turnover jag like they did in their past two road games at Georgia and Vanderbilt, hide the women and children.

"There's no tougher place to stop a run,'' said Bradshaw.

"There are a lot of places that are tough to play. But at Rupp, it feels like the whole world is caving in on you.''

Pretty much everybody knows the feeling.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange

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Comments » 27

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor being pretty realistic when he say they will probably beat our heads in. Witch Doctor say this young team needs next year to compete in this league.
Bones never lie.

vol75 writes:

Plan A.
Pack orange blazer. Check.
Practice four corner offense. Check.
Locate video of 75-67 win. Check.
Seat manager near fire alarm pull station. Check.
Pour antacid into water bottle. Check.
Throw caution to the wind and beat cats. Priceless.
Plan B.
Check to see if sun comes up tomorrow.
Life is good.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to vol75:

Plan A.
Pack orange blazer. Check.
Practice four corner offense. Check.
Locate video of 75-67 win. Check.
Seat manager near fire alarm pull station. Check.
Pour antacid into water bottle. Check.
Throw caution to the wind and beat cats. Priceless.
Plan B.
Check to see if sun comes up tomorrow.
Life is good.

Lol. Witch Doctor cant remember name of old movie when team getting beat real bad the light go out and when the come back on the team is gone and just the coach and the water boy standing there! lol
Bones never lie.

iowavol writes:

Going to be tough to watch, but watch I will - gotta love them Vols to the bone. Over/under on TO's - 28.

clvolfan writes:

Wonder how KY feels about the TV coverage being downgraded to ESPN-U,where UT has been covered several times.Welcome to the lower tier of TV mr. Calapari.

Vols4Ever writes:

in response to iowavol:

Going to be tough to watch, but watch I will - gotta love them Vols to the bone. Over/under on TO's - 28.

True fans will watch and hope this VOL team competes until the final whistle. With this coach leading a developing team against the #1 team on their floor, a win to me is playing to the end. The Cheating 'Cats have more talent on the hardwood but think our team can bring more heart. Final scoreboard tally won't display relative measure of respective team's development, effort will. GBO !!!

bmaples writes:

I will wear my UT tie to work tomorrow in The Ville, and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. And if by some fortuitous bounce of the basketball we actually win, I may wear JUST the tie to work on Wednesday! :-)

Bruce in Louisville

eduardo writes:

You have to be tough minded and strong physically to win in that environment. Go out and show no mercy,must have confidence, must execute.....just win baby!!!!!! Oh yeah take down the biggest cheaters in college athletics history! Prepare to vacate kenlucky!!!!

oldschoolvol writes:

I was at the '77 game and saw us win our second in a row in Lexington.In '76 My buddies and I had gotten UK student tickets and sat with our orange on in the UK student section in Memorial. That was the year King hit that miracle shot falling down to send it into OT. You could hear a pin drop. In those days KY fans were really obnoxious but they also knew that their days of dominating the SEC were over and a new sheriff was in town. Can't wait for Coach Z to get us back to those days.We just need to be patient.

born2ride writes:

Lets hope we lose by 10 point loss or less and get another moral victory.

Go Big Orange!

Zalweed22 writes:

in response to eduardo:

You have to be tough minded and strong physically to win in that environment. Go out and show no mercy,must have confidence, must execute.....just win baby!!!!!! Oh yeah take down the biggest cheaters in college athletics history! Prepare to vacate kenlucky!!!!

speaking as one that has their basketball and football programs under probation

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to clvolfan:

Wonder how KY feels about the TV coverage being downgraded to ESPN-U,where UT has been covered several times.Welcome to the lower tier of TV mr. Calapari.

Charter doesn't even recognize it as TV!!! ARRRRRGGH

mocsandvolsfan writes:

If we lose this one then do we get a first round pick?

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Zalweed22:

speaking as one that has their basketball and football programs under probation

YOU are more weed than Zal!!

brokendownoldvol writes:

If they just try to clank up 3's like they did against Vandy and Aub instead of trying to get it inside to Maymon and Stokes it may be a 40 pt. embarrassment.

johnlg00 writes:

The Vols have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I would like to see them FEEL loose but PLAY tight, in the sense of not trying to win the game with "High-School Harry" plays, as Jimmy Dykes calls them. There ARE no eight-point plays. "Style points" don't count and gain nothing that a simple play properly executed won't get you; TRYING for them can cost you games.

You don't have to shoot for every flag, just keep the ball in play and make all your three-foot putts. Not every pass has to go for a 50-yard touchdown; check-downs for first downs are perfectly OK. Don't swing for the fences every time, just pile up the singles and walks and keep the inning going.

Sorry for all the sports cliches, but the fact is that the basics of winning in all sports are the same: Just do the simple things the way you have been taught EVERY TIME, no matter how wild the atmosphere gets, and you will have a chance to win. It is the ability to embrace the basics when the pressure is on that distinguishes the great teams and players from the average ones. Unfortunately, this is THE area in which this team has the farthest to go.

lomas98 writes:

Pretty remarkable KY has only lost 60 times in 35+ years in that building. That is pretty impressive as I'm sure KY has had some down years somewhere in that time period. Yet some will be on here calling for Cuonzo's head if TN loses tonight. I do not like KY at all and adding Calipari adds even more hatred towards them, but they are the symbol of excellence in college basketball and I would rate them ahead of Duke, Carolina, UCLA, and Kansas from a program standpoint. Winning at Rupp is special for any visiting team and I hope the vols represent well tonight and hang in there and have a chance to win at the end. However, this game not being in Knoxville and the inconsistency of our guard play makes my prediction is KY by 15-20.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to lomas98:

Pretty remarkable KY has only lost 60 times in 35+ years in that building. That is pretty impressive as I'm sure KY has had some down years somewhere in that time period. Yet some will be on here calling for Cuonzo's head if TN loses tonight. I do not like KY at all and adding Calipari adds even more hatred towards them, but they are the symbol of excellence in college basketball and I would rate them ahead of Duke, Carolina, UCLA, and Kansas from a program standpoint. Winning at Rupp is special for any visiting team and I hope the vols represent well tonight and hang in there and have a chance to win at the end. However, this game not being in Knoxville and the inconsistency of our guard play makes my prediction is KY by 15-20.

Lomas and other Vols,

Have to agree. A sober look at where we are.
Vols will play inspired BB for a while but we pretty much know U K has the talent to have their way.

PennVol writes:

This could get uglier than the Vandy game:

Cats 74
Vols 51

gc_scvol writes:

in response to bmaples:

I will wear my UT tie to work tomorrow in The Ville, and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. And if by some fortuitous bounce of the basketball we actually win, I may wear JUST the tie to work on Wednesday! :-)

Bruce in Louisville

TMI

SevenT writes:

in response to eduardo:

You have to be tough minded and strong physically to win in that environment. Go out and show no mercy,must have confidence, must execute.....just win baby!!!!!! Oh yeah take down the biggest cheaters in college athletics history! Prepare to vacate kenlucky!!!!

"Biggest Cheaters"

I thought Pearl was the one who was recently Ousted by the NCAA, or was it Kiffin? OH yes I remember it is BOTH programs that are on probation!!

I seem to recall something about the Baseball program being investigated by the NCAA as well.

And what is up with the Swim Coach.

And which AD was run out of town due to NCAA trouble, Hammy?

Sorry Pal but you stepped into that one.

wigmeister writes:

I just hope they play hard the whole game, and win or lose, make us proud. By the way, winning would be better!

Ayres_Hall writes:

I hate Kentucky basketball almost as much as I hate Alabama football. Both are well-known for paying players. In fact, Bear Bryant learned the finer details of paying players from Adolph Rupp. Fact.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You may have a point. Maybe UT should pay its players, too.

GONAVY writes:

Stranger things have happened. Just do it UT...

Zalweed22 writes:

in response to Ayres_Hall:

I hate Kentucky basketball almost as much as I hate Alabama football. Both are well-known for paying players. In fact, Bear Bryant learned the finer details of paying players from Adolph Rupp. Fact.

Fact? Name the source, I will go read it....

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

One thing (and perhaps the only thing) that impressed me about Tennessee tonight is that they busted their rears tonight again on defense. Kentucky shoots around 60%, they shoot 27 free throws (to Tenn's 7) and still put up only 69 points. Usually Kentucky with these numbers puts up 90. Again, Tennessee's problems lay at the other end of the court. No other team seems to respect Tenn's outside shooting. No one shoots the ball well consistently outside. Woolridge went crazy tonight for a while, but how often does he, or McBee, or anyone else, light it up game after game? Maymon and Stokes drew too many crowds tonight, with one Mr. Davis close by. A few more outside shots, and it's at least quite a bit closer. But without this, especially on the road, I don't know if we win any place but Knoxville. And you have to win some on the road to play some tournament ball.

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