Feb. 15, 2013
HOOPS REPORT: Vols Must Know Wiltjer's Whereabouts
After generating some late-season momentum with back-to-back road wins, the Tennessee basketball team (13-10, 5-6 SEC) returns to Rocky Top to host longtime rival Kentucky Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tipoff is set for 1:05 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised nationally on CBS.
Kentucky (17-7, 8-3 SEC) held on for a 75-65 win at Rupp Arena when these teams first met in Lexington on Jan. 15. On a team loaded with playmakers, the Wildcat who was most effective against the Vols that night - from an offensive standpoint - was versatile sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer.
Wiltjer's team-high 17 points off the UK bench were crucial, as he shot 6-of-10 from the field, sank a pair of 3-pointers and also added five rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin hopes his squad can limit Wiltjer's production Saturday afternoon.
"He makes shots, and he's a good free-throw shooter," Martin said. "He's 6-9, so he can back down and post you up. And they have other guys on the perimeter who can make shots (if he kicks it out to them). So we want to pressure him, get him off the blocks and force him to make tough shots over you, as opposed to backing you down and getting easy post-ups or shooting open threes."
Against SEC opposition, Wiltjer is shooting 46 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range while averaging 10.9 points per game. He is an 80 percent free-throw shooter.
For the first time this season, Kentucky will take the court Saturday without freshman center Nerlens Noel, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Florida Tuesday. A national Freshman of the Year candidate, Noel was averaging 10.6 points and 9.6 rebounds in SEC play. He also led the country in blocked shots, with 106 (4.4 bpg).
The 25th-ranked Wildcats won't be lacking an imposing post presence, however, as their lineup also features 7-0 freshman Willie Cauley-Stein, who has been averaging 20.0 minutes per game off the bench in league play.
The Kentucky series is UT's oldest and most-played among SEC opponents. The Volunteers and Wildcats first met on Feb. 5, 1910, and the teams have clashed 215 times over the years.
No team in college basketball has beaten Kentucky more than Tennessee, as the Big Orange have 66 all-time victories over the Wildcats.
VOLS NO STRANGER TO NATIONAL STAGE
Saturday's clash against No. 25 Kentucky is being televised on CBS, marking the 13th time this season that Tennessee plays on national television.
The Volunteers are no stranger to the national spotlight, as UT made 90 national television appearances over the previous five seasons.
"Playing on national television is a special opportunity," Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "Here at a place like Tennessee, we're given that opportunity numerous times throughout the season. It's easy to forget that there are a lot of Division I basketball players who might never get the chance to play a single game on national TV.
"When your program can get showcased nationally, that exposure is great for the university, our players, our fans and it also helps in recruiting."
Tennessee is guaranteed to make at least three more appearances on national television after Saturday's contest. Upcoming home games against LSU and Florida are set to air on ESPNU and ESPN, respectively. And UT's home finale against first-year SEC member Missouri on March 9 will be televised on either ESPN or ESPN2 (exact network designation will be set in the coming weeks).
KING A BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME FINALIST
Tennessee basketball legend Bernard King (1975-77) on Friday was named one of 12 finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame "Class of 2013," which will be announced in conjunction with the Final Four in April.
King was a consensus All-American at Tennessee in 1977, in addition to being named to various All-America teams in 1976 and 1975. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he scored 1,962 points in his Tennessee career and was selected seventh overall in the 1977 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets.
A prolific scorer in both college and the NBA, King averaged 22.5 points per game over a 15-season NBA career with the Nets, Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks. He was named first-team All-NBA and was a member of the NBA's All-Rookie team in 1978.
Six first-time HOF finalists are on this year's ballot: five-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway, three-time National Coach of the Year Sylvia Hatchell, two-time NBA Championship coach Tom Heinsohn, nine-time NBA All-Star Gary Payton, five-time WNBA All-Star Dawn Staley and six-time NBA All-Star Mitch Richmond.
Previous finalists included again this year for consideration are four-time NBA All-Star King, four-time NBA All-Star Maurice Cheeks, four-time NBA All-Star Spencer Haywood, five-time NCAA Final Four coach Guy Lewis, six-time NCAA Final Four coach Rick Pitino and four-time NCAA Final Four coach Jerry Tarkanian.
The Class of 2013 will be announced on Monday, April 8, at a press conference in Atlanta prior to the NCAA's Men's Championship Game. A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2013 will be enshrined during festivities in Springfield, Mass. on Sunday, Sept. 8.