Tennessee travels to Oxford on Saturday to take on Ole Miss (12-16, 5-10 SEC) in The Pavilion at 1 p.m. ET.
In the last meeting between the two teams, the Volunteers trounced the Rebels by a score of 94-61. This game still stands as Tennessee’s second most points scored in a game, and second biggest margin of victory this season.
After losing seven games in a row, the Rebels finally got back on track Tuesday night with a huge win over Missouri on the road. For Ole Miss, it took the firing of head coach Andy Kennedy to pull out its first win in nearly a month. The Rebels beat the Tigers in a thrilling 90-87 overtime win in Columbia.
Guard Breein Tyree led Ole Miss past Missouri with a game-tying bucket to end regulation and finished the game with a team-high 25 points. Three other Rebels players tallied double-digit points in the overtime win, including forward Terrance Davis who picked up a game-saving block with seven seconds remaining in the game.
Turnovers were the turning point in the win for Ole Miss, as it forced 21 Tigers turnovers in the game. The Rebels shot a similar percentage from the field as Missouri, but the 13 Ole Miss steals separated the two teams down the stretch. Interim Rebels head coach Tony Madlock won his first game as head coach. Madlock had been an assistant with the team since 2014.
“We talked about a fresh start, a new beginning,” said Madlock. “I know it’ll sound like a broken record, but I just told these guys to play hard. That’s all we’re asking for.”
The Volunteers are having a vastly different regular season than Ole Miss so far, as they registered their 20th win of the season with a victory over Florida on Wednesday night. Tennessee finished off the Gators in Knoxville with a combined 39 points from the forward duo of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield.
“He is so strong, and he’s so disciplined with his ability to post with ultimate physicality,” said Florida head coach Mike White about Williams. “He’s obviously not just a post player, he’s versatile…He makes it look easy.”
Defense was the name of the game for the Vols, as they forced the Gators to just 35 percent shooting from the floor and 6-of-24 shooting from beyond-the-arc. Despite being out-rebounded in its last two games, Tennessee held Florida to just 17 first half points and ended the first half on a 9-0 run.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams in the country,” said White. “You’ve got linebackers like Williams and Schofield that move like guards. They’ve got great speed and quickness in the backcourt.”
Although the Vols torched the Rebels in their last matchup, Ole Miss seems to have a new lease on life with Madlock at the helm. Limiting turnovers and playing tough on the defensive end will be key for Tennessee, so if that happens, the rest should fall in its lap.
Edited by Ben McKee
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics