No. 18 Tennessee (16-5, 6-3 SEC) will look to gain momentum by taking down Ole Miss (11-11, 4-5 SEC) on Saturday evening at 6 p.m. ET. Tennessee, who has won seven of its last eight games, is rolling in conference play right now and is looking to break a three-way tie for second place with a win.
The Vols have done everything right as of late, but Ole Miss on the other hand has been in a downward spiral. Ole Miss has lost four of its last five, but three of the four losses have been by single digits.
Tennessee has improved tremendously in closing out games it has big leads in as of late. The Vols have held every opponent they have played lately under 70 points dating back to a true road game at Vanderbilt nearly a month ago.
The Big Orange have been stellar on both offense and defense, but know Ole Miss won’t roll over on Saturday.
“They’re tough, they’re consistent,” Barnes said. “They have a good inside game they can go to when they need it.”
Barnes knows the team has struggled in defending the post as of late, as good as the guard play has been. LSU big men scored the first 16 points of the game against the Vols in their previous game on Wednesday afternoon, and LSU big center Duop Reath scored 21 points inside – with Grant Williams and Kyle Alexander defending the majority of those.
Although the Vols out-rebounded the Tigers by 10 on Wednesday, Barnes sees plenty of room for improvement.
“Roles are really important,” Barnes said. “We’ve got to get better rebounding the basketball. (Grant Williams) can be so much better.”
Tennessee will have its hands full with Ole Miss senior guard Deandre Burnett, who averages over 15 points per game and dishes out 4.5 assists per game.
Burnett has been stellar all season long for the Rebels, but the Vols have been shutting down opposing guards as of late. Tennessee allowed LSU freshman standout Tremont Waters to just seven points on Wednesday night.
The bench play for LSU was also dwindled by suspension, as the Tigers only had seven scholarship players in the game, getting outplayed by Tennessee’s bench in every aspect. The Vols “smashed” the Tigers in bench play, according to LSU head coach Will Wade. The Tigers were out-scored 44-8 by the Vols in bench play.
Ole Miss on the other hand, has nine players on the team that average 17 or more minutes per game. This is a very deep Ole Miss team – possibly the deepest the Vols will play all season long.
Edited by Ben McKee
Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics