Jeronne Maymon on the upcoming Kentucky game
Correction: The Vols played on one day's rest after returning from a late night game at Mississippi State. An earlier version of this story was incorrect.
Cuonzo Martin said Tennessee has improved since dropping a 65-62 decision to Kentucky in Knoxville on Jan. 14.
"Now,'' the Vols' first-year men's basketball coach said Monday, "we just have to complete the mission.''
UT (10-11, 2-4 SEC) will try to do that tonight (TV: ESPNU, 7 p.m.) in Rupp Arena against the No. 1-ranked Wildcats (21-1, 7-0) by "sticking to the script,'' according to Martin, whose team is 0-6 in road games.
Recent history suggests the Vols will need quite a plan in Lexington; Kentucky has the nation's longest active home winning streak at 47 games and counting.
As daunting as playing in front of what's reputed to be the loudest crowd in the SEC might seem, UT fifth-year senior Cam Tatum didn't sound too worried as he boarded the team bus for the trip up Interstate 75 on Monday night.
"If we play hard, everything will take care of itself,'' said Tatum, who scored a team-high 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting including three of six from 3-point range in the teams' first meeting.
"The first time, we were in control of the game for 36 or 37 minutes, and we had some lapses and let the game slip out of our hands,'' he said. "We felt we had a good outing, and we're pretty confident going to Rupp.''
The Vols, who were playing on one day's rest after losing to Mississippi State, led by as many as eight points with 13:05 remaining before appearing to tire.
Tennessee has dropped five straight in Lexington by an average of 13.4 points since the Vols' last win there, a 75-67 triumph on Feb. 7, 2006, that was fueled by 31 points from Chris Lofton.
Lofton, now playing professionally in Madrid, Spain, offered the following advice via Facebook when asked what it takes to get a win in Rupp Arena.
"It's got to be a team effort,'' Lofton wrote, "all the hustle plays.''
Kentucky coach John Calipari, undefeated in games at Rupp Arena since taking over as the Wildcats coach before the 2010-11 season, said he knows what to expect from the Vols.
"This will be kind of a hand-to-hand deal ... bump and grind and you have (soreness in) muscles you didn't know you had,'' Calipari told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday. "It will be body to body play, and it's going to wear people out.''
Calipari, whose team leads the nation with 9.2 blocked shots per game and has won 13 straight since losing at Indiana 73-72 on Dec. 10, suggested it will be important the officials stay on top of the action.
"Let's make sure it's about basketball,'' he said. "Let's make sure it's about execution, making shots and playing ball. And we don't get into a mud-wrestling match with everybody. We want to play basketball.''
That's fine with Martin, so long as hard-nosed, man-to-man defense remains a part of the Vols' so-called script.
After all, Kentucky has some physical players, too, like preseason SEC Player of the Year Terrence Jones, a 6-foot-9, 252-pounder.
"Terrence has to give us a physical presence,'' Calipari said. "If he gives us a physical presence, the other guys can do what they do.''
Jones, who's coming off a 27-point outing in a 74-50 win at LSU on Saturday, fouled out of the first game with the Vols after scoring 10 points. Twice, Jones was whistled for fouls against UT freshman Jarnell Stokes, who was making his debut after his mid-term enrollment.
Jones told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday that he didn't think Stokes' nine-point, four-rebound affected the game, saying: "I don't think he really made that big an impact.''
Stokes was not made available to the media on Monday.
Martin would prefer his team let its play do the talking, anyway.
"For our players, it's a great opportunity to play the No. 1 team on their home floor,'' Martin said. "You can't ask for a better stage.''
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32