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HomeSports#6 Tennessee Vols Basketball travels to #9 Arizona, Saturday

#6 Tennessee Vols Basketball travels to #9 Arizona, Saturday

#6 Tennessee (9-1 | 0-0 SEC) at #9 Arizona (9-1 | 1-1 Pac-12)
Saturday, December 17th, 2022 | 9:30pm CT / 10:30pm ET / 8:30pm MT
Tucson, AZ | McKale Memorial Center | TV: ESPN2

Tennessee Volunteers - UT VolsKnoxville, TN – The sixth-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball team journeys west for a top-10 matchup this weekend, facing off against ninth-ranked Arizona in Tucson on Saturday at 9:30pm CT at McKale Memorial Center.

Fans can catch Saturday’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. Kevin Fitzgerald (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (analyst) will have the call.
Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp describing the action.

Tennessee (9-1) grabbed its second-ranked win of the season and won its eighth consecutive game on Sunday in New York, defeating No. 13 Maryland, 56-53. Sophomore Zakai Zeigler had a team-high 12 points and was named the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational Game MVP. Defensively, the Vols held Maryland to 33 percent shooting for the game, including 13 percent in the first half.
Saturday marks the second-leg of a home-and-home series with Arizona that begun last season in Knoxville, with the then-19th-ranked Vols defeating the No. 6 Wildcats, 77-73. It also marks the second straight season that Tennessee had traveled to the Mountain Time Zone for a true road game against a Pac-12 opponent, as the Vols won at Colorado last December, 69-54.
Following Saturday’s top-10 showdown, Tennessee returns to Knoxville for one final home non-conference contest before the holiday break and beginning of SEC play—taking on in-state foe Austin Peay on Wednesday, December 21st. Tip-off is set for 5:00pm CT on SEC Network+.

The Series

Tennessee leads its all-time series with Arizona, 4-1, dating to 1956.

Last December, the Vols upset sixth-ranked Arizona, 77-73, in Knoxville.

Tennessee also defeated Arizona in its only previous trip to Tucson on December 23rd, 1983. The Vols shot .556 (25 of 45) in that win.

Vols head coach Rick Barnes owns a 2-8 career record against Arizona but is 34-24 all-time against current members of the Pac-12 Conference.

Second-year Tennessee assistant coach Justin Gainey was an assistant coach at Arizona from 2018-20.

Tennessee sophomore Jahmai Mashack’s older brother, Kwesi Mashack, was a cornerback with the Arizona football program from 2014-17.

UT senior Uroš Plavši? returns to Arizona after spending the 2018-19 season redshirting at Arizona State in Tempe.

Scouting Report

Tennessee has never recorded three wins over ranked teams before Christmas.
UT’s bench is giving the Vols 24.1 points per game despite the squad being regularly shorthanded.

Senior guard Santiago Vescovi is five points shy of 1,000 for his career.

In addition to leading the Vols in scoring at 11.6 ppg, Julian Phillips ranks third among all DI major-conference freshmen nationally in offensive rebounding, with 2.8 per game.

In only 10 games, Julian Phillips has drawn 45 fouls—that total leads the team. Zakai Zeigler isn’t far behind, drawing 39 fouls.

Senior big man Uroš Plavši? is averaging 9.0 ppg over UT’s last three outings while shooting 12 of 14 (.857) from the field.

As this home-and-home series draws to a close, Tennessee on Tuesday announced a new home-and-home series with Big Ten stalwart Illinois, set to begin next December in Knoxville.

Defense Travels

Saturday’s showdown features KenPom’s No. 1-rated offense vs. KenPom’s No. 1-rated defense.

The Volunteers own the best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country per Ken Pom, allowing only 81.3 points per 100 possessions.

Seven times this season, the Vols have held their opponents to 50 points or less. Tennessee has now done that 27 times during the Barnes era (2015-present).

Of 363 Division I teams, 341 are shooting 40 percent or better from the field this season. Tennessee has held eight of its 10 opponents this season below 33 percent shooting.

Tennessee has yet to trail at the break this season and is outscoring its opponents 34.1 ppg to 22.4 ppg (+11.7 ppg) in first-half action.

The leading scorer for Tennessee’s opponents is averaging just 15.1 points so far this season. The high is 23 by Colorado’s KJ Simpson.

About the Arizona Wildcats

Arizona (9-1) enters Saturday’s contest having won three straight games—including an 89-75 win over No. 14 Indiana last Saturday in Las Vegas.

The Wildcats have already recorded three wins over ranked opponents this season, having defeated No. 10 Creighton, No. 14 Indiana, and No. 17 San Diego State—all at neutral sites.

Their lone loss this season came at Utah on December 1st, 81-66.

Arizona leads all of Division I in scoring offense (92.0 ppg), field-goal percentage (.547) and assists per game (21.5) this season.

Junior forward Azuolas Tubelis, a 2022 first-team All-Pac-12 selection, enters Saturday averaging 20.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

Redshirt junior center Oumar Ballo, who averaged just 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season, is averaging 18.1 points and 9.4 rebounds through 10 games this year while shooting .747 from the field.

Tubelis was a preseason first-team All-Pac-12 selection, while junior guard Kerr Kriisa and junior guard Pelle Larson earned second-team nods.

Fifth-year senior guard Courtney Ramey, a Texas transfer, scored a game-high 18 points during the Longhorns’ 52-51 win over Tennessee last season.

Arizona has won 24 straight home games dating to the 2020-21 season, which is tied as the fourth-longest active home win streak in the nation.

Tennessee senior guard Santiago Vescovi has a history playing with two players on Arizona’s roster. Vescovi played at the NBA Academy Latin America with Ballo, while he played with Kriisa at a Basketball Without Borders camp.

Tennessee sophomore guard Jahmai Mashack’s older brother, Kwesi Mashack, played cornerback with Arizona football from 2014-17.

Last Meeting With Arizona

In the words of ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes, Tennessee’s 77-73 triumph over No. 6 Arizona last year in Knoxville was a win that had “shelf life.” It ended up being the first of four top-10 wins for the Vols last season. And Tennessee earned a No. 3 seed.

Arizona entered the Dec. 22, 2021, 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.

Vols super senior John Fulkerson drew 13 fouls in the win. Azuolas Tubelis and eventual 2022 NBA Draft pick Christian Koloko combined for almost as many fouls (9) as points (10).

Eventual sixth overall NBA draft pick Bennedict Mathurin led all scorers with 28 points for Arizona.

UT Vols Seeking 24th Ranked Win Under Barnes

Under Rick Barnes, the Vols have logged 23 wins over AP-ranked foes, including 10 wins over top-10 teams.

Top-10 Takedowns

Tennessee has won each of its last five games against AP top-10 opponents. That’s the longest active streak in the nation.

The Vols toppled No. 3 Kansas in November. Last season, UT beat teams ranked Nos. 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Vols’ Non-Conference Schedule Lined With Big-Time Tests, Opportunities

Tennessee’s postseason résumé includes a decisive win over then-No. 3 Kansas as well as a triumph over then-No. 13 Maryland—both away from Knoxville.

The Vols also own a Quad 2 win over Butler.

Saturday’s showdown with Arizona stands as an opportunity for a top-10 true road win. And on January 28th, Tennessee hosts Texas as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Rebounding Key To Tennessee’s Early Success This Season

Through the games of December 13th, Tennessee leads the nation in offensive rebounding, pulling down 15.6 per game.

The Vols are converting those offensive boards into 15.7 second-chance points per game.

UT’s rebounding margin of +8.8 rpg ranks third in the SEC and 12th nationally.

Three Vols average at least 2.0 offensive rebounds per game: Julian Phillips (2.8 orpg), Jonas Aidoo (2.2 orpg) and Tobe Awaka (2.0 orpg).

A true freshman, Awaka has pulled down 17 rebounds—nine offensive—in his last 30 minutes played.

The Vols set a Barnes-era high during their win over Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 7, recording 56 total rebounds.

Tennessee’s rebounding prowess is even more impressive considering that the team’s leading returning rebounder, Josiah-Jordan James (6.0 rpg), has played in only five of UT’s 10 games.

Phillips Crashing The Glass

Vols true freshman Julian Phillips ranks sixth in the SEC in offensive rebounding with 2.8 per game. Among all Division I freshmen on major-conference teams, he ranks third in offensive rebounds per game.
RANK    PLAYER, TEAM                           ORPG     MPG
1.            Kyle Filipowski, Duke                2.92      27.3
2.            Donovan Clingan, UConn           2.82      15.1
3.            Julian Phillips, Tennessee      2.80      26.6


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