Tennessee Looking To End Series Losing Skid In Round Two With LSU

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    Back The Over In This Big Ten Matchup

    Tennessee is looking to win its second straight SEC game for the first time this season when they welcome No. 13 LSU to Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday night.

    While trying to build a streak of its own, Tennessee is looking to end a four game losing streak against LSU that marks back to Will Wade’s second season as the Tigers’ head coach.

    “I think they’re a good team, I do,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said of why LSU has given his program issues. “I think they’re a good team. I don’t know what else I could tell you. Like any other team in the league, we need to play good basketball. We need to have everybody playing good basketball. But again, and I’ve said it, they really do a good job with their one-on-one matchups, the way they like to do that. They’ve had athletic players. We need to play better, we need to do better.”

    This LSU team — which beat Tennessee 79-67 in Baton Rouge two weeks ago — is built much differently than past Will Wade teams.

    From the 2018-19 season, Wade’s second at LSU, the Tigers have ranked in the nation’s top 12 in adjusted offensive efficiency three of four seasons. On the other end, LSU didn’t finish higher than 59th in defensive efficiency and ranked under 100 twice.

    That’s where this year’s team is different. After losing offensive stars Cam Thomas, Javonte Smart and Trendon Watford, the Tigers have built a top 25 team with a defensive identity.

    LSU ranks first in adjusted defensive efficiency while ranking 115th in adjusted offensive efficiency.

    “I think they’re athletic,” Barnes said of LSU. “I think the way that Will (Wade) wants to build his team, I think I would say athletic and quickness. I think he likes offensive-minded players. They’ve changed their style from a year ago…their defense is different in terms of they’re trying to create a lot of offense with their defense. If you go back and look, they get 23 or 24 points per game off of their defense. You could maybe even break it down where it could be more. So when you play against them, everything you’re doing on your offensive end could dictate how good they are on the offensive end. Shot selection for us is really important because if you take shots where your isn’t ready to be in position to defend in transition defense or they just don’t expect it—(LSU) does a great job of capitalizing in those situations.”

    Barnes’ comment about Wade recruiting offensive minded players has been accurate of past LSU teams. During the Tigers’ four-game winning streak over Tennessee, they have had six players score over 20 points.

    That big game ability could be nerfed Saturday with a pair of top Tigers questionable for the top 25 showdown.

    Forward Darius Days (13.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG) left LSU’s game against Alabama with an injury and did not return. Guard Xavier Pinson (10.9 PPG, 4.6 APG) suffered an injury in the second half against Tennessee and hasn’ played since. Both players are questionable for the matchup potentially leaving just one double-digit point scorer.

    Forward Tamari Eason (16 PPG, 7.2 RPG) has been LSU’s breakout star this season and scored a game high 24 points in LSU’s win over Tennessee.

    That puts extra pressure on Tennessee not to let LSU turn defense into offense. The Tigers lead the nation in steal percentage and turned 15 UT turnovers into 23 points.

    “They’re a very, very athletic team,” point guard Zakai Zeigler said. “We know that they have a few shot blockers, some guys that can play above the rim and some guys that can shoot the ball. But, we also know that we can bring that same energy right back to them. We’re not really worried about how athletic they are. We’re just getting back to us.”

    Tip-off from Thompson-Boling Arena is 6 p.m. ET. Karl Ravech and Jimmy Dykes will broadcast the game on ESPN.

    Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.