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#14 Tennessee Vols Basketball hits the road for clash with #19 Alabama, Wednesday

#14 Tennessee (9-2) at #19 Alabama (9-3)
Wednesday, December 29th, 2021 | 8:00pm CT
Tuscaloosa, AL | Coleman Coliseum | TV: ESPN2

Tennessee Volunteers - UT VolsKnoxville, TN – The 14th-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball team is set to open conference play, traveling to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 19 Alabama Wednesday at 8:00pm CT.

Fans can catch Wednesday’s game on ESPN2 and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Karl Ravech (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (analysis) will have the call.
Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp calling the action. The broadcast is also available on channel 85 on Sirius, channel 192 on SiriusXM, and channel 963 on the SiriusXM app.
Tennessee (9-2) enters its SEC opener coming off of a home win over No. 6 Arizona last Wednesday, 77-73. Super senior John Fulkerson led the way for the Vols, scoring 24 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and drawing 13 total fouls in the win. The performance marked Fulkerson’s seventh career double-double and second of the season.
The Kingsport, Tennessee, native was named SEC Co-Player of the Week coming off of the performance and also tied Tennessee’s program record for career games played, making his 142nd appearance as a Vol in the win.
The win marked Tennessee’s sixth win over a top-10 opponent during the Rick Barnes era.

The Series

Tennessee trails the all-time series with Alabama, 70-81, dating to 1914.

When the series is contested in Tuscaloosa, Alabama owns a 45-19 advantage.

The teams have split the last four meetings, but Alabama won both clashes last season—in Knoxville and Nashville.

In the three meetings over the last two seasons, neither team has ever posted more assists than turnovers.

True freshmen Kennedy Chandler of Tennessee and JD Davison of Alabama were rated by ESPN as the Nos. 1 and 3 point guard prospects nationally in the Class of 2021. Both were McDonald’s All-Americans.

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

The Vols are 3-3 in SEC openers during the Barnes era.

Layup Lines – Team

According to KenPom, the Vols rank second in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 85.8 points per 100 possessions. College teams typically average close to 70 possessions per game.

Entering SEC play, Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn lead all SEC teams in Quad 1 wins with two.

The Vols rank among the Division I top 10 in turnover margin (+6.8, 5th), assist/turnover ratio (+1.71, 6th) and assists per game (18.6 apg, 8th).

44 percent of Tennessee’s points this season have been scored by first-year Vols (378 of 862).

In four games away from home, Tennessee has held opponents—Villanova, UNC, Colorado, and Texas Tech—to just 63.5 ppg.

The UT Vols are attempting 8.1 more 3-pointers per game than they did last season (28.0 per game compared to 19.9). In wins, UT is shooting .386 from long range. In losses, that average drops to .164.

UT’s scoring away from home dips to 65.8 points per game, while the team’s 3-point percentage dips to .234.

Layup Lines – Players

Freshman All-America candidate Kennedy Chandler has scored or assisted on 33.6 percent of Tennessee’s points this season.

Chandler’s 5.3 assists per game rank second in Division I among true freshmen.

Wednesday will be John Fulkerson’s 143rd career game as a Vol. He will pass Wayne Chism (142 from 2006-10) to stand alone atop Tennessee’s all-time games played list.
The SEC record for career games played is 152, held by Kentucky’s Darius Miller (2008-12).
Santiago Vescovi made 18 total 2-point field goals in 27 games last season. He’s already made 21 2-point field goals through 11 games this year—many of them layups.

In 187+ minutes of action this season, guard Justin Powell has committed only three turnovers—that’s one every 62.3 minutes.

About the Alabama Crimson Tide

In his third season at the helm of Alabama’s program, head coach Nate Oats has compiled a 51-25 record in his time with the Crimson Tide.

Alabama enters Wednesday’s game coming off a neutral-site upset loss to Davidson just before Christmas in Birmingham, 79-78.

In addition to its loss to Davidson, Alabama also dropped games a neutral site contest to Iona and a road game at Memphis.

Despite its trio of non-conference losses, Alabama also notched two impressive wins prior to the start of SEC play. The Crimson Tide defeated No. 3 Gonzaga in Seattle on December 4th, 91-82, and No. 14 Houston at home on December 11th, 83-82.

Alabama is a perfect 6-0 at Coleman Coliseum this season, most notably with a win over No. 14 Houston. Dating to last season, the Crimson Tide have won 15 straight home games.

Junior guard Jaden Shackelford leads the Tide in both scoring (16.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 rpg). With 1,129 career points, Shackelford ranks 42nd in program history in career scoring despite being only in his third season.

Shackelford, along with fellow junior guard Jahvon Quinerly, were both named Preseason First-Team All-SEC.

Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Danny White hired Oats to his first collegiate head coaching job. After serving on Bobby Hurley’s staff at Buffalo as an assistant from 2013-15, Oats was named the Bulls’ interim and then permanent head coach by White after Hurley left to take the head coaching position at Arizona State. Oats then served as the head coach at Buffalo for four seasons before becoming the head coach at Alabama.

Last Meeting With Alabama

Productive offensive outings from freshmen Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer were not enough, as Tennessee fell to No. 6 Alabama in the SEC Tournament semifinals at Bridgestone Arena, 73-68, on March 13th, 2021.

Tennessee’s SEC All-Freshman Team duo of Johnson and Springer led the way offensively for the Vols with 20 and 18 points, respectively. Santiago Vescovi added 11 points with three made 3-pointers.

SEC Player of the Year Herbert Jones led the way for the Tide (23-6), pouring in 21 points—15 of which came in the second half—and grabbing 13 rebounds. Jahvon Quinerly contributed 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting.

After jumping out to an early lead, Tennessee was in control for much of the first half and built its lead to as many as 15 points early in the second half at 48-33 on a Vescovi three-pointer.

Facing its largest deficit of the game, Alabama responded immediately with a 14-0 run that cut the Vols’ lead to one. The teams went back and forth until Alabama took its first lead since the opening minute of the game at the 5:26 mark.

Trailing by four points with less than a minute to go, a three from Yves Pons brought Tennessee back within one point at 69-68. On the ensuing possession, Davonte Gaines blocked Jones’ shot at the rim, got the rebound, and was fouled, but was unable to convert his two free-throw attempts.

The Tide closed out the game with free throws from Quinerly and Keon Ellis on the other end.

After shooting 47.1 percent from the field and forcing 12 Alabama turnovers in the first half, Tennessee took a 40-31 lead into halftime. Johnson was the story of the first half, totaling 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting.

After the Tide scored the game’s opening basket, Tennessee went on a 13-2 run to build an early nine-point lead. Alabama cut the lead down to as few as two points at 23-21, but the Vols immediately responded with a 13-3 run that put them in control heading into the second half.

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 8-9 against schools at which he once worked (he’s 3-5 vs. Alabama, 1-1 vs. Ohio State, 2-0 vs. Providence, 0-1 vs. Clemson, 2-2 vs. Tennessee). He’ll face Texas on January 29th.

A Win With “Shelf Life”

In the words of ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes, Tennessee’s 77-73 triumph over No. 6 Arizona is a win that has “shelf life.”

Arizona entered the December 22nd showdown boasting the No. 1 scoring offense in Division I at 91.0 ppg, but the Vols were the first team all season to hold the Wildcats to fewer than 80 points.

Tennessee forced Arizona into turnovers on 22.7 percent of its possessions (17 total). UT also held the Wildcats below 1.0 points per possession (0.97 ppp).

Arizona scored just 21 points in the first half, its lowest output in any half this season.

Vols super senior John Fulkerson drew 13 fouls in the win. Projected NBA Draft picks Azuolas Tubelis and Christian Koloko combined for almost as many fouls (9) as points (10).

Think He Remembers?

Tennessee never trailed during its win over No. 6 Arizona on December 22nd. It was the first time Tennessee never trailed in a victory over a top-10 opponent since a 96-78 upset at No. 6 Texas on December 17th, 2005. Can you guess who coached those Longhorns?

Next Up For UT Men’s Basketball

Following its game at Alabama, the Tennessee men’s basketball team returns to Knoxville for its SEC home opener against Ole Miss on Wednesday, January 5th, 2022. Tip-off is set for 6:00pm CT on SEC Network.


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