Tennessee is back home on Rocky Top to host in-state rival Vanderbilt after a two-game road trip.
After dropping the first two games in SEC play, the Vols (13-5, 4-3 SEC) have won four of five and are occupying the No. 4 spot in the SEC standings. Tennessee is coming off a tremendous road win against South Carolina. The Vols controlled most of the game, but the Gamecocks wouldn’t go away — a five-point spurt with just over four minutes to go put the Vols ahead for good en route to a 70-63 win..
Lamonte Turner led the Vols by tying his career high with 25 points and was a perfect 3 for 3 from 3-point range. When the game was on the line, Turner had the ball in his hands and went a flawless 10 from 10 from the free-throw line.
On the other hand, Vanderbilt (7-12, 2-5 SEC) found a win amidst SEC play struggles after beating LSU, 77-71, to snap a four-game skid. The Commodores received significant minutes from senior forward Jeff Roberson and fellow senior guard Riley LaChance. Roberson and LaChance gave Vandy a combined 56 points, 12 rebounds and shot 50 percent from behind the arc in the win.
Don’t let Vanderbilt’s record deceive you. The ‘Dores are 2-5 in their last seven games, but those losses include Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida. They also have “good” losses to teams like Virginia, Seton Hall and Arizona State in nonconference play.
This will be the Vols’ only home stop, as they travel to Ames, Iowa, on Jan. 27 to take on the Iowa State Cyclones in the fifth annual Big 12/SEC Challenge. After that challenge in Big 12 country, the Vols have winnable games in a following two-game homestand against LSU and Ole Miss.
A win against Vanderbilt won’t necessarily improve the Vols’ resume, but a loss could be detrimental for hopes of a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament. According to Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology update, the Vols are the No. 5 seed in the Midwest region playing Buffalo in the first round.
Tennessee hosts Vanderbilt in Knoxville at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday night on ESPNU.
NEW LOOK ROTATION
Rick Barnes said before the South Carolina game that Tennessee’s rotation was going to look much different. He wasn’t lying. Vols went to freshmen forwards Yves Pons and Derrick Walker early in the first half.
Derrick Walker took full advantage of the most playing time in his young career. Before Saturday, Walker’s career high in points was 5 — he only had 22 total points for the season. He surpassed his career high in the first half when he scored 8 points in 10 minutes. Watch for Walker to get more minutes if the production stays high.
FORGET NIKES, WEAR JORDANS
At this point, Vol fans are willing for the two starting guards to do anything to get back on track, even if that means wearing old Jordans like Bow did in the Like Mike. Jordan Bone and Jordan Bowden had terrible offensive games again in Columbia.
The two guards are a combined 2 for 19 from the field with only 5 points in the past two contests.
That’s right. In the past three games, Tennessee is protecting the rim better than the finger-wagging man himself, Dikembe Mutombo.
The Vols have 17 blocks in the past three games. Junior forward Kyle Alexander has 8 himself and 32 on the season.
Grant Williams continues to show why he should have been a First Team All-SEC preseason selection. Williams has become Tennessee’s clear general on the court and one of the most consistent players on the team.
He has scored in double digits in 16 out of 18 games this year. Against Vanderbilt early in the year, Williams scored a career-high 37 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and shot 13 of 15 from the charity stripe in a 92-84 win.
There won’t be an easy game in the SEC this season, but the Vols should handle this one quite comfortably. In the past six games, the Vols are just 3-3 vs. the Commodores and 0-2 at home since Rick Barnes has been the coach. I believe that trend comes to an end and the Vols take the win.
Tennessee 82, Vanderbilt 71