Since John Calipari left The Volunteer State to become Kentucky’s head basketball coach in 2009, his trips back to Tennessee have not gone well. Nashville has been kind to Cal (5-2 vs. Vandy and 4 SEC Tournament wins), but the city of Knoxville has not. Calipari is 3-3 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
- 2016: L, 77-84
- 2015: W, 66-48
- 2013: L, 58-88
- 2012: W, 65-62
- 2011: W, 64-58
- 2010: L, 65-74
In the six games, Calipari’s Cats have been outscored 395-414.
Kentucky’s 2010 trip to Tennessee was one of only two regular-season losses in Cal’s first year as Kentucky’s head coach. A loss to Bruce Pearl is always a tough pill to swallow, but at least the 2010 Tennessee team had formidable talent with Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Scotty Hopson. It was a painful loss, but it was understandable.
The 2013 loss was exponentially more painful. The game following Nerlens Noel’s season-ending injury at Florida, the Cats were blown away by the Vols on CBS. The BBN knew it was going to be tough without Noel, but nobody knew we’d suffer through a 30-point blowout to a sub-.500 SEC team.
Still, no loss hurt worse than last year’s monumental collapse.
Just three days removed from Kentucky’s impressive performance at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, the Cats were beginning to look like a team ready to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. Kentucky built up a 21-point lead in the first half. Before they could put it into cruise control and run away with a win over a mediocre (at best) Tennessee team, they fell apart.
“We had them down 21 and they came back and beat our brains in,” John Calipari said after the game. “You think about it. They ended up beating us by 30 in about 25 minutes, and it could have been 50. We have a long way to go.”
With the game tied at 70 late, the Vols became the masters of the Rule of 71, outscoring Kentucky 14-7 down the stretch. The Cats surrendered 27 points to Kevin Punter. If you want to relive the misery, feel free.
Last year’s Tennessee team was not good. They finished the season 15-19 (6-12 in the SEC). Rick Barnes’ 2017 team isn’t much better, with three freshman and a sophomore in the starting lineup.
The trek back from Knoxville to Lexington isn’t always a happy one for John Calipari. Hopefully tonight’s trip feels a lot less like the three previously discussed trips and more like this: