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HomeSports#7 Tennessee Vols Basketball hosts Alabama, Saturday

#7 Tennessee Vols Basketball hosts Alabama, Saturday

#7/#6 Tennessee (7-0 | 1-0 SEC) vs. Alabama (6-3 | 1-0 SEC)

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021 | 5:05pm CT
Knoxville, TN | Thompson-Boling Arena | TV: ESPN2

Tennessee Volunteers - UT VolsKnoxville, TN – The seventh-ranked Tennessee basketball team returns home for the first of two consecutive contests, when it takes on Alabama on Saturday night, January 2nd, 2021. The opening tip from Thompson-Boling Arena is slated for 5:00pm CT on ESPN2.

Fans can see Saturday’s game on ESPN2 or online through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Karl Ravech 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.

Tennessee Men's Basketball takes on Alabama Crimson Tide Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena. (UT Athletics)
Tennessee Men’s Basketball takes on Alabama Crimson Tide Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena. (UT Athletics)

Last time out, Tennessee dominated #12 Missouri to open SEC play, to the tune of a 73-53 scoreline. UT was led by sophomore Santiago Vescovi who poured in a game-high 15 points and senior Yves Pons who put together an all-around performance tallying 13 points, six rebounds, a season-high four blocks and a pair of steals.

Pons also eclipsed 100 career blocks on Wednesday night and is just six blocks away from breaking into the top-15 on UT’s career blocks list.

A victory on Saturday would give Tennessee an 8-0 record, marking its best start since the 2000-01 squad opened the year with a 9-0 ledger. A win would also leave head coach Rick Barnes just two wins shy of tying Phog Allen and Don Haskins for 20th on the all-time Division I wins list.

The Series

Tennessee trails the all-time series with Alabama, 70-79, dating to 1914.

When the series is contested in Knoxville, UT owns a 47-22 edge.

The Vols won last season’s lone meeting on February 4th, 2020, by a score of 69-68 at Coleman Coliseum.

Rick Barnes was an assistant coach at Alabama during the 1985-86 season.

Tennessee was set to face Alabama in the 2020 SEC Tournament in Nashville on March 12th when the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic brought the 2019-20 season to a screeching halt.

A Win Would

Give Tennessee a three-game win streak in its series vs. Alabama.

Leave Rick Barnes two wins shy of tying Phog Allen and Don Haskins for 20th on the all-time Division I wins list.

Layup Lines

Tennessee has matched the 7-0 start of its 2010-11 team. A win over Alabama would give the Vols their best start since opening the 2000-01 season 9-0.

Tennessee’s 20-point win at 12th-ranked Missouri Wednesday (73-53) stands as UT’s largest margin of victory against a top-25 opponent on the road in program history.

Tennessee has won 79 percent of its games as a ranked team during the Rick Barnes era (62-17).

This week marks Tennessee’s 23rd appearance in the AP top 10 under head coach Rick Barnes.

The Vols have shot 50 percent or better in each of their last four games.

Tennessee has scored 96 more points in the paint than its opponents this season (+13.7 ppg).

The Vols have won each of their last five games by 20 or more points.

Defense Wins

Tennessee leads the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing just 52.7 points per game.

According to KenPom, the Vols rank second nationally (trailing only Texas Tech) in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 85.6 points per 100 possessions so far this season. College teams average close to 70 possessions per game.

The Vols are forcing 18.1 turnovers per game while converting those turnovers into 20.3 points per game. Tennessee’s turnover margin stands at +7.4 (eighth nationally).

Over its last four games, Tennessee is scoring an average of 23.3 points off turnovers.

Reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons has 84 blocks in his last 38 games.

Only once this season has a team made at least five consecutive field goal attempts against the Vols (Cincinnati made five).

About the Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama has had mixed bag of results to begin its 2020-21 campaign, with a 6-3 overall record and a 1-0 mark in conference play after taking down Ole Miss, 82-64, Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa.

Second-year head coach Nate Oats aims to build off the immediate improvement the Tide saw in 2019-20, as he returns four of his five regular starters from last year’s squad that finished ninth in the SEC.

On the offensive end, the Crimson Tide have put together a largely balanced attack, with four of those five returning starters, averaging at least 12 points per game.

The first of those is sophomore Jaden Shackelford, who has seen an increased role entering his second year in Tuscaloosa. The Hesperia, California, native is averaging a team-leading 13.4 points and was named the SEC Player of the Week on Monday after pouring in 26 points in the Tide’s victory over East Tennessee State on December 22nd.



Classmate Jahvon Quinerly joins Shackelford in the backcourt, ranking second on the team in scoring (13.1 ppg) and first in assists (3.2 apg). Quinerly has also been incredibly efficient from the field, tallying a team-best field-goal percentage of .500 (42-84).

In the frontcourt, it’s been all about senior Herbert Jones. Jones ranks third on the team in scoring, with 12.1 points per game, and has been a beast on the boards, reeling in a team-high 6.3 rebounds per night. On the defensive end, he’s recorded just under  one block per game (0.9 bpg) and a team-leading 1.6 steals per game.

Notable alumni of Alabama include author Harper Lee, best known for her 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and has become a classic of modern American Literature.

Tennessee Vols’ Last Game Against Alabama

20-point outputs from senior Jordan Bowden and junior John Fulkerson, along with junior Yves Pons’ second career double-double, propelled the Tennessee basketball team past Alabama, 69-68, on February 4th, 2020, in Tuscaloosa.

The win ended Tennessee’s three-game losing skid and was the first time the Vols overcame a 15-point deficit to win a game since knocking off Alabama in March of 2017.

Coming into the game, Alabama was the SEC’s highest-scoring offense. The Vols held the Crimson Tide under 70 points for just the second time during 2020 league play.The Vols were led by Fulkerson’s career-high 22 points, with 14 coming in the first half. Fulkerson also added a season-high-tying three blocks.

Bowden’s 20 points were the third time he’s reached 20 on the season, with 16 coming in the second half. Bowden was also huge on the defensive end, nabbing a career-high six steals.

Pons added 12 points and pulled in a career-high 14 rebounds. Eight of his 14 rebounds came on the offensive glass, helping to keep alive multiple key possessions in the second half.

The contest was the first time the Vols had multiple 20-point scorers since last season’s Sweet Sixteen showdown against Purdue.

To get things going, the Crimson Tide knocked down six of their first 12 attempts from the field to take a 16-10 advantage at the 11:25 mark of the first half.

As the half progressed, Alabama stretched its lead to as many as 15 points. However, a late run—spearheaded by six consecutive points from Fulkerson—meant the Crimson Tide took a 40-32 lead into the locker room.

Out of the break, both squads went bucket-for-bucket, allowing Alabama to hold a 50-43 lead as the second frame neared its midpoint.

Over the next three minutes, the UT Vols used an 11-3 run to take their first lead since the 18:44 mark of the first half, holding a slim 54-53 advantage with 8:22 remaining.

The next four minutes saw the teams trade the lead four times, with the largest lead during that stretch being three points in favor of the Crimson Tide.

In the final minutes, two timely buckets, steady free-throw shooting and a clutch rejection from Pons as time was expiring put a lid on the road triumph.

Rick Barnes Was A ‘Bama’ Assistant

Rick Barnes spent the 1985-86 season as an assistant coach at Alabama under Wimp Sanderson. It was Barnes’ first taste of “major” college basketball.

The Crimson Tide went 24-9 (13-5 SEC) that year and finished third in the conference. Bama earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and defeated Xavier and Illinois before falling to Southeast No. 1 seed Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen.

That Alabama team featured 15-year NBA veteran Derrick McKey, eventual Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried, five-year NBA veteran Jim Farmer and seven-year NBA veteran Buck Johnson (team’s top scorer).

After Barnes’ lone season in Tuscaloosa, he moved on to Ohio State to work as an assistant coach under Gary Williams.

As a head coach, Barnes is 7-7 against schools at which he once worked (he’s 2-3 vs. Alabama, 1-1 vs. Ohio State, 2-0 vs. Providence, 0-1 vs. Clemson, 2-2 vs. Tennessee).


Jaden Springer Efficient, In Control

Seven games into his college career, Jaden Springer has displayed remarkable poise and efficiency.

The 2020 McDonald’s All-American is shooting .560 (28-50) from the field and  .700 (7-10) from 3-point range.

The true freshman phenom is the team’s third-leading scorer at 11.7 ppg while only attempting 7.1 field goals per game.

Josiah-Jordan James Can Do It All

After starting his Tennessee career as a point guard, Josiah-Jordan James has steadily expanded into a versatile, almost positionless, plug-and-play marvel.

The 6-6 sophomore has been starting on the wing this season, but he also has slid into the post for some minutes at the No. 4 spot. When the Vols “go small,” James’ all-around game enables him to use his size and strength to play effectively in the frontcourt.

Stat Per Game Team Rank
Off. Rebounds 2.9 1st
Steals 1.7 1st
Assists 3.0 2nd
Blocks 0.9 2nd
Total Rebounds 6.0 T-2nd
3-Point FG% .438 3rd
Points 8.9 5th


Next Up for Tennessee Vols Basketball

Tennessee Men’s Basketball will take on Arkansas for a Wednesday night home matchup. Tipoff from Thompson-Boling Arena is set for 6:00pm CT on ESPN2.


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