#10/#10 Tennessee (2-0) vs. Appalachian State (4-1)
Tuesday, December 15th, 2020 | 6:01pm CT
Knoxville, TN | Thompson-Boling Arena | TV: SEC Network
Knoxville, TN – The 10th-ranked Tennessee basketball team hits the floor for a Tuesday night, December 15th, 2020 bout with Appalachian State. Tipoff from Thompson-Boling Arena is slated for 6:00pm CT on SEC Network.
Fans can catch Tuesday’s action on SEC Network and online through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Tom Hart and Jimmy Dykes will have the call.
Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertlekamp describing the action.
Last time out, the Vols battled past Cincinnati, 65-56, in a tightly contested defensive affair.
UT was led by senior John Fulkerson who poured in a game-high 15 points and reeled in a career-high-tying 12 rebounds, with four of them coming on the offensive glass.
The two main differences Saturday came on the boards and at the charity stripe. Tennessee out rebounded Cincinnati 45-34 overall, with a punishing 14-6 ledger on the offensive side of the floor. The Vols also went 25-30 from the line, while the Bearcats attempted just seven free throws the entire game.
A victory would be the Vols 399th inside Thompson-Boling Arena, while also improving head coach Rick Barnes‘ record to 31-0 against current members of the Sun Belt Conference.
Tennessee is 5-0 all-time against Appalachian State, dating to 1986. All five meetings took place in Knoxville.
The most recent meeting took place in year two of the Barnes era, with the Vols winning a shootout, 103-94, on November 15th, 2016. Current Vols staffer Bryan Lentz was then an assistant coach with App State.
Another UT staffer, I.J. Poole, spent two seasons on staff at App State. He was the director of basketball operations in 2017-18 before being promoted to assistant coach for the 2018-19 campaign.
Vols head coach Rick Barnes is a perfect 30-0 against Sun Belt opposition.
A Win Would
Give Tennessee 399 wins at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee has won 77 percent of its games as a ranked team during the Barnes era (57-17). The Vols are 10th in this week’s AP poll.
App State head coach Dustin Kerns hails from Kingsport, and his coaching résumé yields a brief stint on Rocky Top. Kerns spent the 2003-04 season at Tennessee as a graduate assistant under then-head coach Buzz Peterson. Interestingly, Peterson had two stints as head coach at App State.
A preseason media poll predicted Tennessee to win this year’s SEC championship.
Seniors John Fulkerson and Yves Pons were both named to the Wooden Award preseason top-50 watch list. Pons also earned a spot on the preseason watch list for the Naismith Trophy College Player of the Year.
Tennessee’s starting lineup this season has featured five left-handers.
According to KenPom, the Vols rank fourth nationally and first in the SEC in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing 86.8 points per 100 possessions so far this season.
Tennessee also ranks among the NCAA leaders in scoring defense, allowing just 51.5 points per game.
The Vols are forcing 20 turnovers per game while converting those turnovers into 15.0 points per game. Tennessee’s turnover margin stands at +7.0.
The Vols’ .339 shooting percentage ranks 303rd nationally. Among teams that have played multiple games and are ranked 300 or worse in field-goal percentage, Tennessee is the lone undefeated team. That is what stellar defense makes possible.
Reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons has 75 blocks in his last 33 games.
About Appalachian State
Appalachian State comes to Knoxville with a 4-1 record, fresh off back-to-back victories over North Carolina Wesleyan (81-57) and at Charlotte (61-57).
Second-year head coach Dustin Kerns is coming off a year in which he made an instant impact, increasing the Mountaineers’ win total by seven from 2018-19, along with a four-place jump in the Sun Belt, moving from 10th to sixth.
One of three returning starters from last season’s team, Adrian Delph, has been the team’s top scorer, pouring in 13.6 points per contest. Delph scored a career-high-tying 21 points in App State’s victory over Charlotte Friday night. He has also been active on the defensive end, tallying at least one block in each of the Mountaineers’ four victories.
Sophomore forward Kendall Lewis has also taken huge strides already in 2020-21. Last season, he was the squad’s fifth-leading scorer at just more than seven points per game. This year, he is scoring at a clip of 11.8 points per game and has been solid on the boards, pulling in a team-leading 5.4 rebounds per game.
2020 first-team All-Sun Belt honoree and App State’s 2019-20 leading scorer, Justin Forrest, is off to a bit of a slow start in his senior campaign but is still expected to be a key contributor for the Mountaineers this season. Last year, Forrest averaged 17.3 points and 2.8 helpers per game.
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northwestern North Carolina, Appalachian State sits at one of the highest elevations of any university in the United States east of the Mississippi River—3,333 feet.
Tennessee’s Last Meeting With Appalachian State
Tennessee used a balanced attack to race past Appalachian State, 103-94, on November 15th, 2016, at Thompson-Boling Arena for its first victory of the 2016-17 season.
Redshirt freshman guard Lamonté Turner scored 13 of his then-career-high 15 points in the second half and was one of five UT players to set career-highs in scoring. UT shot 56 percent (35-of-63) from the floor, including a 42 percent (8-of-19) clip from long distance.
The Big Orange also passed the ball well, recording 26 assists, their most since 2009.
Freshman point guard Jordan Bone led the Vols with eight assists while also chipping in seven points. Kyle Alexander also had a big game for UT, leading the team with seven rebounds and scoring a then-career-high 13 points.
Freshman guard and Knoxville native Jordan Bowden made his first career start and led the Vols with 12 points at the break on 4-of-7 shooting. All four of Bowden’s made field goals came from beyond the arc, as UT shot 50 percent (6-of-12) from 3-point range in the first half.
App State outscored the Vols, 56-53, in the second half. The Mountaineers went on a 23-7 run to cut the lead to seven with less than a minute to play before UT iced the game at the free-throw line. App State’s Ronshad Shabazz and Isaac Johnson led all scorers with 21 points.
Former UT Head Coach Peterson Spent Time in Boone
Buzz Peterson, who was Tennessee’s head coach from 2001-05, served as head coach at Appalachian State prior to his tenure on Rocky Top and again in 2009-10.
Peterson guided the Mountaineers to three Southern Conference division titles in four years before spending one season as head coach at Tulsa.
Tennessee then hired the Asheville, North Carolina, native following Jerry Green’s departure following the 2000-01 campaign. He returned to Boone for a second head coaching stint there for the 2009-10 season.
Peterson is now the assistant GM of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.
Little Ricky From Hickory
A native of Hickory, North Carolina, Rick Barnes has lined Tennessee’s schedule with several opponents from his home state.
Barnes’ Vols have played 10 games against North Carolina-based schools. The Big Orange are 8-2 vs. teams from his native state.
And for the sixth straight season, Barnes’ Tennessee roster includes at least one player from North Carolina (Jaden Springer and Kent Gilbert this year).
These Vols Relentless On D
This Tennessee squad has a genuine passion for playing elite team defense. The Vols’ love of getting stops is reflected in its national defensive rankings.
Tennessee closed out the Cincinnati win on Saturday with a 14-3 run. After UC took a 53-51 lead with 6:14 to play, the Vols forced four late turnovers and held the Bearcats to just three points the rest of the way.
Cincinnati head coach John Brannen had this to say after the game on December 12th: “I’ve seen what I could call two great defensive teams in my career. The Texas Tech team that made national championship game two years ago, and potentially this (Tennessee) team.”
UT Vols’ Depth A Weapon
The stars have aligned for the Vols, as Rick Barnes‘ boasts the deepest roster of his Tennessee tenure during a year in which COVID-19 Coronavirus could sideline players at any time.
10 Vols saw action in the season-opener vs. Colorado, and nine of them scored. Against Cincinnati, eight Vols played double-digit minutes—with only one logging 30+ minutes (Fulkerson).
Sophomore point guard Santiago Vescovi on December 8th: “It feels really different with the depth we have in the team right now (compared to last year), knowing that you can go 100 percent every possession on offense or defense and know that the guy coming in will give their all and play at a high level.”
Vescovi Clutch at Free Throw Line In Crunch Time
Sophomore guard Santiago Vescovi has proven to deliver at the free-throw line in crunch time for the Vols.
For his career, Vescovi is 23 of 24 from the foul line in the final four minutes of regulation and all of overtime. That’s a near-automatic percentage of .958.
Vescovi has yet to miss at the stripe this season, with all four of his attempts coming in the final four minutes of regulation.
Next Up for Tennessee Men’s Basketball
Tennessee Vols basketball returns home for its fourth consecutive game to take on in-state foe Tennessee Tech on Friday night. The opening tip is scheduled for 6:00pm CT on SEC Network+.