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Tennessee Will Put It On the Line One More Time

Nate Oats Addresses “Leadership Void” Heading into LSU

The Tennessee Volunteers have been able to thwart opposing teams inside of Thompson Boling Arena all season long. Fifteen opponents have come into Knoxville this season, and all 15 have left with a loss as the Vols have been building an impressive undefeated home record.

And now, with one game remaining in the regular season, the Vols’ will put that streak on the line for the final time this season as No. 14 Arkansas rolls into town.

While an undefeated record at home doesn’t guarantee Tennessee any extras come tournament time, it would be quite the accomplishment. Tennessee has had several marquee wins in Knoxville this year, including No. 6 Arizona in December, No. 13 LSU in January, and top-five ranked Kentucky and Auburn in the month of February.

A win on Saturday against Arkansas would give Tennessee their fourth undefeated season at home since 2000. The Vols had back-to-back years with no home losses during the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons. After about ten years, though, Tennessee would once again hit the mark during the 2018-2019 season under head coach Rick Barnes.

No matter what the reason is, Tennessee has proven to be one of the best home teams in the nation.

Tennessee Basketball
(Photo via Austin Perryman/Tennessee Athletics)
Thompson Boling Arena: WATCH: Tennessee vs Auburn Arena Experience and Game Highlights

For Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes, though, part of the reason for that is the Tennessee fanbase. Barnes and the Tennessee players have been extremely vocal all season about their belief in how much the Vol fans are impacting the game.

“Our fans, have they helped us this year? Absolutely, I don’t think there’s any question that home fans help home teams if the home team is playing good basketball,” Barnes said while talking to the media on Friday. “Home fans can’t help you if you’re not doing what you need to do to win a basketball game. They can’t as much as they want to. You still have to do your part because in most situations the home team they’re going to have fans behind them and trying to help them everywhere they can. Our fans have sort of helped us there’s no question about it.”

One of the mindsets that Barnes has given to his team is the challenge of not letting these home games slip by.

“Well, we tell our guys all the time we can’t take being at home for granted,” Barnes said on Friday. “We think we have the best home-court situation in the country, and I’m sure Arkansas fans feel that way, Kentucky fans feel that way, Auburn fans feel that way, and probably I can keep naming teams that feel that way. You can’t, we talk as much about what we do on the road, at home, or on the road, and we know we have to play good basketball, plain and simple.”

When the Razorbacks come into town on Saturday, Tennessee will be running their “Checker Thompson-Boling” event, which should raise the excitement in the building even more.

Tennessee and Arkansas squared off just a couple of weeks ago in Fayetteville, with the Razorbacks snapping Tennessee’s eight-game SEC win streak. After building up a run of great games both in Knoxville and on the road, the Vols hit a wall against a Razorbacks team that was amped up and energized in front of their home crowd.

After that contest, Barnes showed more frustration with the officials than he had all year to that point. Arkansas was controlling the paint on the defensive end through charge calls drawn by Arkansas forward Jaylin Williams, putting Santiago Vescovi, Kennedy Chandler, and Josiah-Jordan James all in foul trouble in the final minutes of the contest.

While it wasn’t a bad loss on paper by any means, it was also Tennessee’s worst showing in the last month. So now, with the opportunity to avenge that loss and close out the regular season undefeated in Knoxville, Tennessee will look to step into a roaring spotlight Saturday afternoon to find their fifth undefeated home season since 2000.

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