Preview: Vanderbilt at Tennessee
Fifth-ranked Tennessee must rebound from a defeat for the first time since just after Thanksgiving when it plays host to last-place Vanderbilt on Tuesday night in an SEC contest. The Volunteers had held the No. 1 spot in the USA Today Coaches Poll for four weeks and won 19 in a row, including an 88-83 overtime victory at Vanderbilt on Jan. 23, before being routed at Kentucky 86-69 on Saturday.
“We weren’t Tennessee tonight,” leading scorer Grant Williams told reporters after the Volunteers allowed 54.7 percent shooting and were hammered off the glass 39-26 on Saturday. “We weren’t the team that we are. We needed this, I believe, though. We needed to be humbled. I feel like we had a sense of entitlement. But now we realize we have to compete. It’s not going to be easy every game.” Williams, a junior forward, made it look easy in the first meeting with the Commodores when he poured in a career-high 43 points as Tennessee won for the fifth time in six games between the state rivals. Vanderbilt – the 301st most-experienced team in the country – will be looking to avoid matching the program’s longest losing streak in its history of 14 (1934-36) after falling 64-53 at Auburn on Saturday. “It’s been a big character check,” Commodores coach Bryce Drew told reporters. “What is our program about? Where does our program stand? Where is our program going? As we’re walking through this adversity, I’m seeing a vision, even more of a better vision than I saw a few years ago.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT VANDERBILT (9-16, 0-12 SEC): Forward Aaron Nesmith was named SEC co-freshman of the week after averaging 25 points along with 11.5 rebounds in the last two games, and scored 24 in the first meeting with the Volunteers. Nesmith (11.4) is one of three active players averaging in double figures scoring behind sophomore guard Saben Lee (13.1, team-high 3.8 assists) and freshman forward Simisola Shittu (11.5, team-best 6.8 rebounds). Shittu is scoring just 6.3 per game over the past six, but junior forward Yanni Wetzell stepped up to post his first career double-double Saturday with 10 points and 10 boards.
ABOUT TENNESSEE (23-2, 11-1): The Volunteers, tied with LSU atop the SEC standings, are a mediocre plus-3.7 in rebounding margin overall (plus-2.2 in SEC play) and coach Rick Barnes told reporters: “We’ve been telling (the team) for two and a half weeks that we’ve got to rebound the ball better.” Williams has taken just 12 shots and averaged 12 points the last two games to drop his season mark to 19.3 while leading the team in rebounds (7.4) and senior guard Admiral Schofield scores 16.7 per contest – 19.8 in the past two. Junior guard Jordan Bone (13.4 points, team-high 6.5 assists) scored a team-best 19 on Saturday.
1. Vanderbilt junior F Matt Ryan is 8-of-29 from the field the last four games – all on 3-point attempts.
2. Tennessee junior G Jordan Bowden had three points against Kentucky after averaging 14.4 over his previous five contests.
3. The Volunteers are shooting an SEC-best 82.4 percent from the free-throw line in league games and Vanderbilt is last at 64.0 percent.