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#9 Tennessee Vols Basketball makes road trip to Baton Rouge to play LSU, Saturday

#9 Tennessee (15-3 | 5-1 SEC) at LSU (12-6 | 1-5 SEC)
Saturday, January 21st, 2023 | 3:05pm CT / 4:05pm ET
Baton Rouge, LA | Pete Maravich Assembly Center

Tennessee Volunteers - UT VolsKnoxville, TN – The ninth-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball team wraps up a two-game road swing this weekend, traveling to Baton Rouge to take on LSU on Saturday at 3:00pm CT.

Fans can catch Saturday’s game on ESPN and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Courtney Lyle (play-by-play) and Dane Bradshaw (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 (15-3, 5-1 SEC) bounced back from its first conference loss of the season with a 70-59 win at Mississippi State on Tuesday. Playing without starters Santiago Vescovi and Tyreke Key, the Vols got high production from sophomore Zakai Zeigler and freshman Julian Phillips in the win. Zeigler played all 40 minutes and scored a career-high 24 points—16 in the second half—while Phillips posted his third double-double of the season with an 18-point, 11-rebound line.



 
Saturday marks this season’s lone regular-season meeting between Tennessee and LSU after the teams met twice last season, with each team winning on its home court. The Vols are searching for their first win in Baton Rouge since 2015, having suffered losses in each of their previous four games at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The Series

Tennessee leads its all-time series with LSU, 66-50, dating to 1933.

When the series is contested in Baton Rouge, the Tigers own a 28-26 advantage.

The Vols have lost four straight at the PMAC, with their last victory in Baton Rouge coming in 2015. Thus, no active Vol has ever won in Baton Rouge.

LSU has controlled this series in recent years, winning six of the last eight clashes overall.
Each team won on its home court last season.

First-year LSU head coach Matt McMahon is a native of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he starred on the hardwood at Oak Ridge High School under coach Chuck Carringer.

McMahon was a graduate assistant on the Tennessee basketball staff under head coach Buzz Peterson in 2001-02.

Scouting Report

The UT Vols have held the No. 2 spot in the NCAA’s NET ratings since January 3rd.

Tennessee ranks among the top 10 nationally in five different statistical categories.


These UT Vols have won eight games by 30 or more points.

During conference play, Tennessee leads the SEC in scoring defense (57.3 ppg), field-goal percentage (.496), free-throw percentage (.803), rebounding defense (28.7), assists (17.8) and assist/turnover ratio (1.30).

The Vols have won five straight SEC true road games (and eight straight SEC games away from home; 2022 SEC Tournament).

Tennessee leading scorer Santiago Vescovi missed Tuesday’s game after reaggravating a left shoulder injury last Saturday vs. Kentucky.

Zakai Zeigler is averaging a league-best 6.8 assists during SEC play.

Starting forwards Olivier Nkamhoua and Uros Plavsic have combined to shoot .667 in SEC play (46 of 69).

Julian Phillips is one of only four freshmen in the SEC—and 16 across Division I—averaging at least 10.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.

UT’s bench is giving the Vols 22.8 points per game.


The Nation’s Best Defense

For the eighth straight week, the Volunteers own the best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country per KenPom, allowing only 83.2 points per 100 possessions.

Tennessee owns the best overall field-goal percentage defense (.336) and 3-point defense in Division I (.217).

In 18 games, Tennessee opponents have managed to make only 88 3-pointers—just 4.9 per game.

Nine times this season, the Vols have held their opponents to 50 points or less.

Only three opposing players have scored 20 or more points against the Vols this season.

Tennessee trailed at the break only three times this season and is outscoring its opponents 35.1 ppg to 25.2 ppg in first-half action (+9.9 ppg).

In SEC road games, the Vols are undefeated and allowing only 53.3 points per game.

About the LSU Tigers

LSU (12-6, 1-5 SEC) has lost five straight games since winning its SEC opener over Arkansas on Dec. 28. Saturday’s matchup with No. 9 Tennessee marks the Tigers’ third straight game against a ranked opponent, as LSU fell at No. 4 Alabama last Saturday and at home to No. 16 Auburn on Wednesday.


Currently ranked No. 106 in KenPom and No. 122 in the NET, LSU is 1-5 in Quadrant I games this season, but have only suffered one loss outside of Quadrant I—a home loss to Florida on January 10th.

LSU is 9-2 at home this season. Tennessee has lost four straight games in Baton Rouge, last escaping with a victory in 2015.

Matt McMahon is in his first season at LSU after seven successful seasons at Murray State. McMahon is a native of Oak Ridge, Tennessee—located roughly 30 minutes from Knoxville. He served as a graduate assistant with Tennessee’s team during the 2001-02 season.

2022 OVC Player of the Year KJ Williams followed McMahon from Murray State to LSU—one of three players to do so after the 2021-22 season. Williams is LSU’s leader in scoring (17.9 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg) and has scored in double figures in all but two games.

LSU Director of Player Development Ronrico White is a Knoxville native and the son of Vol great Tony White—the 1987 SEC Player of the Year and third-leading scorer in Tennessee history. Ronrico White starred locally at Bearden High School before playing four years as Chattanooga. He entered college coaching prior to the 2017-18 season and served on staffs at Emory & Henry College, Gardner-Webb, and Murray State before starting at LSU prior to this season.

Last Meeting With The Tigers

No. 24 Tennessee led wire-to-wire and avenged an early-season loss to No. 13 LSU on Jan. 22, 2022, at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Santiago Vescovi led Tennessee with 16 points, including five made 3-pointers. Making his second straight start, Uroš Plavši? had 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting and six rebounds.

In what was a matchup of two of the nation’s top-five teams in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency, Tennessee held LSU to a season-low 50 points.


Tari Eason led LSU offensively with 16 points.

Tennessee opened the game with a 14-0 run over the first six minutes. The Vols forced LSU to miss its first seven field goal attempts, as the Tigers did not score until the 13:38 mark.

Coming out of the halftime break with a 29-24 lead, Tennessee opened the second half with a 13-4 run. In the opening six minutes of the second half, LSU scored just two points and made just one of its first nine shots.

Former LSU Signee Phillips Set To Suit Up In Maravich Center

Tennessee freshman and 2022 McDonald’s All-American Julian Phillips initially signed with LSU before the dismissal of Will Wade led to Phillips’ release and subsequent decision to sign with the Vols.

Phillips was the No. 2 power forward and No. 12 recruit in the nation, according to the 247Sports Composite, at the time of his release on March 18th.

He signed with Tennessee on May 16th, extending UT’s streak of consecutive years signing a McDonald’s All-American to four.

Phillips’ Field-Goal Percentage Improved During SEC Play

Prior to SEC play, freshman forward Julian Phillips was shooting .347 from the field. But in conference games, he has boosted that shooting percentage to an efficient .605.

Overall this season, Phillips is giving the Vols 10.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. He has attempted a team-high 80 free throws—making them at a .813 clip.
 
He ranks second among all major-conference Division I freshmen with 2.28 offensive rebounds per game.

Under The Radar Awaka Emerging Ahead Of Schedule

Despite not being a highly-ranked prospect, true freshman forward Tobe Awaka quickly earned a role in the Tennessee rotation with his relentless physicality and willingness to rebound and defend.

The New York native’s first big opportunity came against Maryland in Brooklyn on December 11th.

With Jonas Aidoo sidelined with an illness, Awaka gave the Vols seven points and eight rebounds in a season-high 17 minutes. He was +17 in the neutral-site win.

Incredibly, Awaka ranks second among all Division I players with a total rebounding percentage of 25.2 percent (trailing only UConn’s Donovan Clingan).

In games in which he plays 15 or more minutes, Awaka is averaging 8.3 RPG.

Starting Off Hot

In four of Tennessee’s first six SEC games, the Vols’ opponents have been scoreless at the first media timeout.

During league play, Tennessee’s average lead at the first media timeout is 6.1 points (9.3 to 3.2).


Next Up For UT Men’s Basketball

After a brief two-game road swing, the Tennessee Vols basketball team is back inside Thompson-Boling Arena for a pair of home games next week—first against Georgia on Wednesday. The tip-off is set for 6:00pm CT on SEC Network.

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