Tennessee (14-12) vs. Vanderbilt (15-12)
Thursday, Feb. 26th, 7:00 p.m. ET
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) • Knoxville, TN
Probable Vanderbilt Starters
G-Wade Baldwin IV, 6-3, 195, FR (8.1 ppg, 4.3 apg)
G-Riley LaChance, 6-2, 194, FR (12.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
G-Matthew Fisher-Davis, 6-5, 173, FR (6.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
F-James Siakam, 6-7, 225, SR (8.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
F-Damian Jones, 6-10, 250, SO (14.9 ppg, 2.0 bpg)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR (15.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR (10.7 ppg, .385 3FG%)
G-Robert Hubbs, 6-6, 206, SO (6.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (10.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
F-Willie Carmichael III, 6-8, 210, FR (3.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Setting the Table
The Vols are just 2-5 in conference play at home and have played better on the road – they need to fix their home struggles to hold serve against Vanderbilt and build some momentum headed into the final three games of the season.
When these two teams met in Nashville just two weeks ago, the Vols left with a 76-73 overtime win thanks to a furious closing rally. The Vols are 0-3 since that victory while Vanderbilt is 2-1 with an eight point win at Alabama and a 23 point home victory over Missouri. Their lone loss came by three points at Florida.
Simply put, Vanderbilt is playing their best ball of the season. Starting point guard Wade Baldwin fired some comments yesterday that are sure to make for an emotion rich game. That may be just the motivation the Vols need to get back on track at home against an in-state rival.
A win would secure at least a .500 regular season record for Tennessee and give them the season sweep of the Commodores. The Vols are 8-2 in Thompson-Boling Arena against Vanderbilt since 2005.
“The respect I have for coach (Kevin) Stallings and their program is as high as it could possibly be. We were fortunate to win that game at their place (earlier this month). We certainly know they will bounce back, and we will get their best shot. We hope to have a great home crowd.”
– Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall on Thursday’s matchup with Vanderbilt
Freshman Vol power forward Jabari McGhee is out for the season after foot surgery. Junior Guard Devon Baulkman will be playing with a torn ligament in his left shoulder. Ian Chiles, who missed significant time this season due to toe and shoulder injuries, had surgery on his injured shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season.
3 keys for the Vols
1. Punish Vandy’s Poor Perimeter Defense: The Commodores have the worst perimeter defense in the SEC – they’re allowing opponents to shoot 39.1% from 3-point range – and the Vols will have plenty of chances to knock down open looks from beyond the arc. In their first matchup, Tennessee shot 38% from 3-point range. They’ll need a similar effort to knock Vandy off again.
2. Limit Jones’ Damage: Jones is an extremely impressive player. He’s big, strong and very skilled for his size. Tennessee did a nice job of limiting his touches in Nashville, but Jones still scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds. They’ll need to keep him around the 10 field goal attempt mark again to walk away with a win.
3. Turnovers: The Vols rank second in the SEC in forcing turnovers while Vandy ranks 12th in taking care of the ball. Those numbers definitely favor Tennessee. In their previous matchup, the Vols won the turnover battle 16 to 13. If the Vols can win that battle decisively, they’ll be tough to beat in Knoxville tonight.
KenPom.com: Vanderbilt 63-62
Daniel: Tennessee 65-61
Houston: Tennessee 70-62
Reed: Tennessee 70-65