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Texas Coach Rodney Terry: Tennessee Has ‘All The Ingredients’ To Make Final Four

Photo Via Texas Athletics

Few people know what an elite Rick Barnes team looks like more than Texas interim coach Rodney Terry. Terry spent 10 years as Barnes’ assistant at Texas as the duo took the Longhorns to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament five times including the 2003 Final Four.

After No. 4 Tennessee knocked off No. 10 Texas, 82-71, Saturday night at Thompson-Boling Arena, Terry saw a lot of similarities between the early 2000 Longhorn teams and the 2022-23 Vols.

“They’ve got a lot of experience,” Terry said. “They’re older. He’s got guys that can play inside. A number of different guys that can play physical. We always head physical guys who could rebound and defend. We also had guys that can shoot the ball. We also had a really good point guard in TJ Ford— National Player of the Year. So that was pretty good as well. He’s got a point guard that is playing really well and is a really good player as well.”

That combination has bolstered Tennessee to an 18-3 (7-1 SEC) start to the season and a top five national ranking. It also makes it easy for Terry to envision Tennessee still playing basketball the first weekend of April.

“They have all the ingredients of being a Final Four team,” Terry said. “I think I said that earlier in the year that they were a team that had a chance to be a Final Four team.”

Both the point guard play and front line physicality were on display for Tennessee in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Sophomore Zakai Zeigler was phenomenal, dishing out 10 assists while pouring in 22 points for his third double-double of 2023.

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Senior power forward Olivier Nkamhoua used an “emotional conversation” with Rick Barnes and a strong Friday practice to post a career-high 27 points (12-of-15 shooting) against Texas. But Nkamhoua’s scoring success wasn’t where Tennessee’s physicality truly shown through.

That game on the defensive end and on the glass where the Vols out-rebounded the Longhorns, 38-23.

“They’re a physical team,” Terry said. “On both ends of the floor they’re physical. They really pounded the glass on us tonight. We don’t really get out toughed a whole lot of times but they really out toughed and out physicaled us tonight in this ball game. They set the tone early and we never really adapted and adjusted to the physicality of the game.”

Tennessee heads on the road Wednesday as the calendar turns to February. Tip-off between Tennessee and Florida at the O’Connell Center is at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday. ESPN2 is broadcasting the game.

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