No. 15 Tennessee looks to continue hot streak at Alabama

Tennessee (18-5, 8-3 SEC) will go on the road to battle Alabama (15-9, 6-5 SEC) Saturday evening at 6 p.m. The Vols have been red-hot lately, winning their last six games and coming off their first win at Kentucky since 1999.

Rick Barnes has Tennessee rolling right now thanks to the defense. The Vols have been stingy on the defensive side of the ball, allowing slightly over 66 points per game on the season.

The Vols haven’t allowed over 65 points to an opponent in the last eight contests.

If Tennessee wants to succeed at a sold out Coleman Coliseum Saturday, it will have to make shut down star point guard Colin Sexton.

The former five-star prized recruit for Alabama head coach Avery Johnson has lived up to his rating this season. Sexton is third in the SEC in scoring with 18.6 points per game.

Sexton went head-to-head earlier in the season with Oklahoma point guard Trae Young and bettered him in the contest. To say the least, the Tennessee guards will have their hands full in this one.

Tennessee has balanced scoring on its side. Barnes’ top seven players in minutes played average over seven points per game.

Both Lamonté Turner and James Daniel III make huge plays off the bench for Tennessee, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

The Vols bottled up Tremont Waters, a freshman standout for LSU, and sent him home after scoring only seven points on 1-9 shooting.

Only a week later, the Tennessee defense held Ole Miss’ standout guards to 20 combined points on 29 total shots. The Vols held Deandre Burnett to 2-13 shooting in the game.

Turner played a key role in the win over Kentucky Tuesday evening. He will need a big game both offensively and defensively for the Vols on Saturday. Turner must offset Colin Sexton, as Sexton will be one of the most versatile guards the Big Orange plays all season.

Alabama head coach Avery Johnson has his team playing very good basketball as of late, but the Tide has been one of the most inconsistent teams in the conference this season. Alabama is one of the few teams to knock off Bruce Pearl’s red-hot Auburn Tigers this season. The Tide also beat No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 23 Florida.

With the good comes the bad, as Johnson’s Alabama team has also been knocked off by far lesser opponents. The Tide lost by double-digits to Georgia, Texas and Ole Miss – all teams ranking in the bottom-tier of their respective conferences.

If Johnson wants his team to be respected come tournament selection time, the Tide will have to prove the good outweighs the bad and knock off lesser teams after a big time win. Both teams will have their hands full in this matchup, but look for the guard play to be the deciding factor.

Johnson and the Tide are 1-1 against Barnes since his tenure in Tuscaloosa. The Vols look to win only their 19th game at Alabama since the rivalry began. Tennessee is 18-44 all-time at Coleman Coliseum.

Edited by Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

Late surge for Tennessee grants Vols win on senior day, 59-54

Photo by Brad Blackwelder.

The Tennessee Volunteers (16-15, 8-10 SEC) hosted the Alabama Crimson Tide (17-13, 10-8 SEC) in Thompson-Boling Arena on their senior day in the final game of the regular season.

After a late comeback, the Vols grinded out a 59-54 win.

Tennessee got off to a slow start again on offense in this matchup. At the half, the Vols shot just 20 percent from the field and were 1-12 from beyond the arc, while the Crimson Tide shot 56 percent from the field and were 7-9 from 3-point land. Going into halftime, Tennessee was down 36-22 in its lowest scoring half of basketball this season.

Coming out of the break, the script flipped for the Volunteers.

They started the second half on a 23-10 run through the first 10 minutes. Grant Williams was the spark for the orange and white as he made a three for Tennessee to take the first lead of the game at the 7:58 mark. Williams led the team in scoring with 16 points. The Volunteers’ defense held Alabama to 25 percent shooting in the second half and just 1-8 from three-point range, which is a stark difference from their 7-9 performance from three in the first half.

The Vols outscored Alabama 37-18 in the second half and got a big contribution from senior forward Lew Evans, who had his first double-digit game this season with 13 points. “He’s relentless, he’s a young man that never gives up, he works hard inside. He has a no-quit attitude,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said about Evans.

Sophomore forward Admiral Schofield also contributed and had double-digit points off of the bench as he had 10 points and five rebounds. “Admiral came in off the bench and started rebounding the ball and I think that flipped it for us,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said.

The Volunteers snapped a three-game losing streak with the win over the Crimson Tide. “I think it speaks volumes. It’s a process you have to go through and this time of year it comes down to how bad you want to keep playing,” Barnes said about his team’s resiliency.

Alabama finishes the season fifth in the SEC and Tennessee finishes ninth, ahead of the preseason prediction of 13th. “At the beginning of the season we had no expectations, then we created some, and then didn’t handle it very well,” Barnes said.

Barnes and the Vols return to the court on Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. for the SEC Basketball Tournament, where they are slated to be a No. 9 seed.

Edited by Robert Hughes

Featured image by Brad Blackwelder