As the Tennessee Volunteers (8-6, 0-2 SEC) prepare to take on the Kentucky Wildcats (11-5, 1-1 SEC), there's a few obstacles in their way.
The Vols have gone 0-3 in their last three games and are currently 0-3 away. In the midst of getting the team back on track, head coach Cuonzo Martin isn't overlooking Rupp Arena.
"I think they have a tremendous atmosphere, tremendous fan base," Martin said. "I think their place and here in Knoxville (are) two of the best in the country in my opinion as far as the fans. When they get active, it makes for a tough environment for you."
But the environment isn't the only hindrance. The wildcats pose a threat to the already struggling Vols. Martin discounted their record, adding that the team has the pieces to be successful and their losses have come from big names in basketball, including Duke and Baylor.
"They're a talented team," Martin said.
Kentucky sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow missed a few games, but he will be on the court Tuesday to take on the Vols. Martin said his talent and his position makes him a key player and a focus for UT defense. Martin said he'll be making adjustments accordingly.
The recent losing streak has been hard on the team as well. Martin said the loss to Alabama on Saturday took a mental toll on the players.
"It's hard on the guys. They took it tough. They turned the ball over like that down the stretch and we spent a lot of time working on those exact drills, backing the ball up and attacking. They know we spend time doing that," Martin said.
He said he'll be focusing on the team having less turnovers and taking better care of the basketball.
"The most important thing is you gotta go get the basketball," Martin said. "Go get it and bring the ball up the floor. If you're double teamed come find the next guy to attack the rim. But there's not a lot to be talked about. They understand. We spend a lot of time working on it."
Martin said he won't be changing the team's overall style. He said focusing on playing consistently and aggressive will give the Vols the edge they need to win.
"Put pressure on the officials when you're attacking the rim," Martin said. "You gotta do what you gotta do. You gotta crash the glass. You can't be passive. If you're passive, it's a long day."
While the team has struggled with recent losses to Ole Miss, Memphis and Alabama, Martin said he has been pleased with the team overall and believes there's more to the Vols than fans have yet seen. He said his disappointment in losses was when he didn't see the team he was accustomed to seeing.
"The whole season I think the two games I wasn't as pleased (with) was Ole Miss and Memphis," Martin said. "Those two games, I don't think the effort was there at the level where it needed to be. Not to say the guys weren't trying, but I don't think it was there from start to finish."
A Kentucky win is next on the Vols' agenda. Martin said all the focus is on Rupp Arena right now and how to come out with the win.
"You're locked in trying to win the game," Martin said. "I don't know that you approach it differently. You do what you do. You have to play hard, you have to take care of the basketball. That's the biggest thing. I think the two keys whether you're making or missing shots, you gotta take care of the basketball and you gotta do a really good job in transition defense."
Past Kentucky, Martin said he isn't focused on where the team "should" be at this point, just on getting the team where it needs to be.
"I don't really get caught up in preseason expectations, I think you have expectations and goals for your team on where you'd like to be," Martin said. "Everybody's different, every team is different. You just need your key guys to step up and be consistent more than anything."