Tennessee (1-0) at Georgia Tech (1-0)
Monday, Nov. 16, 7:00 p.m. ET
McCamish Pavillion (8,600) • Atlanta, Ga.
Probable Georgia Tech Starters
G-Adam Smith, 6-1, 165, SR (13.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
G-Josh Heath, 6-2, 179, JR (4.0 ppg, 7.0 apg)
G-Marcus Georges-Hunt, 6-5, 216,, SR (17.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
F-Nick Jacobs, 6-8, 262, RS SR, (12.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
F-Charles Mitchell, 6-8, 256, SR (21.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, SR (31.0 ppg, .500 3FG%)
G-Robert Hubbs III, 6-4, 207, JR (18.0 ppg, .667 3FG%)
G-Devon Baulkman 6-4, 200, SR (0.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, SR (12.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
F-Derek Reese, 6-7, 230, SR (8.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
Setting the Table
The Vols won – or perhaps more accurately – survived their opener against UNC Asheville on Friday in a bit of a sluggish 82-78 win over an Asheville squad that had the lead in the final four minutes and had it down to a one-possession game in the closing seconds before a pair of free throws from Kevin Punter secured the victory for UT. Because the alternative would’ve been much worse, Tennessee will take that win and try to pull some lessons from it as a tougher challenge on the road awaits Monday night.
The Brian Gregory era hasn’t been pretty for Georgia Tech (56-71). Gregory, however, has played the role of survivor and was given a fifth year to see if he could get things turned around. Will he? History says it could be a long shot, but take a closer look at the talent on the roster and it isn’t foolish to say that this Tech team could be different than the last few. Anchored by the return of veterans Marcus Georges-Hunt and Charles Mitchell, the team’s top-two scorers from last season, Gregory hit the transfer market hard and added Nick Jacobs (Alabama), Adam Smith (Virginia Tech) and reserve James White (Arkansas-Little Rock) to bolster this roster.
The early results have been promising. The Yellow Jackets blasted Cornell 116-81 in the opener, scoring the sixth-most points in program history and the most since 1991 in that impressive performance. It’s been a small sample size for both sides, but it certainly appears that Tech was the sharper team in the opener this season after UT struggled against a mediocre Asheville team.
“The good thing about it from our point of view is we were in the game at the end. I felt the last couple of minutes was the first time we really got competitive on the defensive end. That is what we have talked about since the other day. We are just too tentative on the defensive end. When the game was on the line, it could go either way, we made some plays. We had a little bit more pop to it.”
– Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes discussing the win over UNC Asheville and UT’s need to up the intensity on defense
3 keys for the Vols
1. Team rebounding: Barnes harped on the need for more of a team effort on the glass after UNC Asheville won the rebounding battle on Friday. Tennessee has very few true post presences, so the guards and wings will have to crash the boards every game, but that will be especially true against a Tech squad with a pair of forwards that average about 6-8, 260 pounds. They will be extremely difficult to block out, so the Vols need to fly into the paint, tip the ball around and get creative so the Yellow Jackets don’t completely own this area.
2. Move it and shoot it: Especially if Tech doesn’t adjust to Tennessee’s smaller lineup, the Vols must find a way to use their athleticism to move the ball around, get good looks and, most importantly, knock those shots down. The Vols were decent from the field (52.6%) against UNC Asheville, but struggled a bit behind the arc (25%). They’ll need to get some easy buckets and knock down a higher percentage of 3-balls to get the win in Atlanta.
3. Defensive intensity: In limited opportunities to see Tennessee so far this year, the Vols just haven’t looked like a team that’s invested in being an elite defensive squad. There are certainly some limitations in terms of size and lacking a true rim protector that play into that, but as Barnes has said multiple times, this team must find a defensive mentality if it’s going to reach full potential this year.
KenPom.com: Georgia Tech 71-67
Daniel: Georgia Tech 82-73
Reed: Georgia Tech 84-72