Tennessee once again struggled to play consistent basketball this past week coming off its dominating win over then-ranked No. 15 Kansas as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Coming off the win over the Jayhawks, the Vols suffered an embarrassing 52-50 loss to Ole Miss in Oxford on Tuesday night. Tennessee jumped out to an early 23-15 lead in the contest, but the offense sputtered and didn’t make a basket during a 13-minute stretch in the second half. UT turned it over 11 times in the process of losing its fourth game of the season. The Rebels went on a 19-4 run to pull off the upset in the midst of Tennessee’s struggles.
It looked like the Vols were well on their way to a second consecutive embarrassing loss to a bad team on Saturday night. Tennessee dealt with foul trouble in the first half of its matchup against Kentucky as six different Vols had two fouls by the time halftime rolled around, leading to a 42-34 lead at the break for the Wildcats.
Tennessee didn’t get off to a great start in the second half either, but went on a 26-6 run towards the end of the game to pull off the win. The Vols were led by their five-star freshman guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer. They combined for 50 points on the night, 31 of those points coming in the second half as they scored 22 of the 26 points on the run to win the game.
UT’s win marked its seventh win all-time at Rupp Arena. It has now won six out of the last nine meetings against Kentucky as Barnes became the only active head coach with three wins at Rupp. John Fulkerson and Pons became the first Vols to play in three wins in the venue.
Tennessee was originally scheduled to turn its attention to a home game with Florida on Wednesday night, but due to a COVID-19 situation with the Gators, the game has been postponed.
The Vols will now pivot and host Georgia (12-6, 5-6 SEC) on Wednesday for an 8 p.m. tip on ESPN2. They’ll then travel to Baton Rouge next Saturday for a 2 p.m. tip with LSU.
Here’s a look at where Tennessee basketball is ranked amongst college basketball polls and media members heading into this week’s games against the Bulldogs and Tigers.
AP Poll: No. 16 (-5)
Coaches Poll: No. 15 (-5)
NET Rankings: No. 10 (-1)
KenPom: No. 12 (+2)
CBS’ Jon Rothstein’s 45: No. 18 (-2)
Rothstein’s “skinny” on UT: “Good, but can they be great?”
Gary Parrish’s Top 25 and one: No. 18 (-3)
Parrish on the Vols: “Tennessee improved to 7-4 in the first two quadrants with Saturday’s win at Kentucky. All four of the Vols’ losses qualify as Quadrant 1 defeats.”
The Athletic’s Seth Davis: No. 20 (-8)
Stadium’s Jeff Goodman: No. 17 (-7)
ESPN’s Jeff Borzello’s Power Rankings: No. 16 (-5)
Borzello on the Vols: “Tennessee’s season was at a crossroads on Saturday against Kentucky. The Volunteers had lost three of its previous five games and were staring at a 10-point deficit against the Wildcats with 12 minutes left. Then the five-star freshman backcourt of Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson came to life. They scored 22 of Tennessee’s next 26 points, flipping the 10-point disadvantage into a 10-point lead and leading the Volunteers to a win. Springer and Johnson combined for 31 points, five rebounds and three assists in the second half — and totaled 50 points for the game. Tennessee’s offense has fallen off a cliff the past few weeks, but Springer and Johnson might have provided a much-needed spark moving forward.”
Andy Katz’s Power 36: No. 21 (+2)
Katz on the Vols: “The Vols won at Kentucky, but this team still needs to get to the way it played a month ago.”