Preview: Tennessee vs. George Washington

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    Barclays Classic

    Tennessee (4-1) vs. George Washington (5-0)

    Friday, Nov. 27, 9:00 p.m. ET

     Barclays Center (18,103) • Brooklyn, N.Y.

    TV: American Sports Network/WatchESPN.com

    Probable George Washington Starters

    G-Joe McDonald, 6-1, 190, SR (6.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg) 

    G-Patrico Garino, 6-6, 210, SR (17.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg)

    F-Tyler Cavanaugh, 6-9, 238, RS JR (14.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg) 

    F-Yuta Watanbe, 6-8, 197, SO (9.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

    F-Kevin Larsen, 6-10, 265, SR (14.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg)

    Probable Tennessee Starters

    G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, SR (21.8 ppg, .478 3FG%)

    G-Robert Hubbs III, 6-4, 207, JR (16.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg)

    G-Devon Baulkman 6-4, 200, SR (10.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg)

    F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, SR (18.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg)

    F-Derek Reese, 6-7, 230, SR (4.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg) 

    Setting the Table 

    Tennessee fans get a post-Thanksgiving serving of hoops as the the Vols travel to Brooklyn, N.Y., to play two games within about a 20-hour timespan against some better competition than they’ve seen so far this season.

    UT has shown it’s capable of playing some really good basketball, but also capable of falling off quickly at times during its 4-1 start that has included primarily mid-major opponents that Tennessee has held a talented edge against. This will be more of a test in Brooklyn. The other three teams come in with a combined 14-1 record so far on the season and both George Washington and Cincinnati are coming off 22+ win seasons in 2014-15.

    The Colonials of George Washington are up first on Friday night. They sit at 5-0 on the season with an extremely impressive 73-68 win vs. Virginia on the resume this year. Loaded up with size and experience, the Colonials will be a great measuring stick for Tennessee to see how much progress the Vols have made in the past couple weeks. UT will play either Cincy or Nebraska at noon or 2:30 pm ET on Saturday, depending upon the outcomes of the Friday games.

    Quotable

    “George Washington has already beat Army, in a game which was very similar to our game with Gardner-Webb, where the score looked wider than it really was. We know the Gardner-Webb was a much closer game than the score. Same thing happened there. If you go back and look, George Washington has already beaten Virginia. A year ago I think they beat Wichita State. They changed defenses. We can only look at that one. We’ve just got to get continue to get better. That’s what this time of year is all about. You learn a lot about your team.”

    – Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes

    3 keys for the Vols

    1. Hit the 3-ball: Tennessee is going to need the 3-pointers to fall in Brooklyn to make some noise. Tennessee comes into this game with an edge on George Washington in that area on the season(.365 to .292) and the Vols will be looking to have a decided advantage in that category to stick with the Colonials. A big part of UT’s second-half run against Army was fueled by an 8-of-11 performance from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes. While that kind of performance won’t be sustainable likely against GW, hitting 35% or better will give UT an opportunity to hang in this one. 

    2. Help from the bench: Through five games, the Vols now feel pretty good about getting production from Kevin Punter, Robert Hubbs III and Armani Moore. Those players can’t go all game every night, however. UT doesn’t need a bunch of double-digit scoring efforts from the bench, but the Vols do need several quality minutes of production from players such as Shembari Phillips, Detrick Mostella, Jabari McGhee and others to keep the main producers rested and effective. That will be especially true with two games in less than 24 hours in Brooklyn. 

    3. Team rebounding: Tennessee seemed to get this message after losing on the boards in the opener to UNC Asheville a couple weeks ago. The Vols are rarely going to have a size advantage this year, and that certainly will be the case against George Washington, which has a starting frontline with three players at 6-foot-8 or taller. Tennessee needs Derek Reese and Armani Moore to continue to battle inside and the guards will need to keep crashing, tipping the ball around and scrapping for loose balls to keep the Vols competitive in this category.

    Prediction

    Daniel: George Washington 82-76
    Reed: George Washington 85-80