Tennessee (15-10, 7-6 SEC) at Texas A&M (16-10, 5-7 SEC)
Saturday, Feb. 23, 4:00 p.m. ET
Reed Arena (12,989) . College Station, Texas
TV: SEC Network
Radio: Vol Network (WGOW-FM 102.3, Chattanooga)
Series Record: Tennessee leads, 4-1
Probable Texas A&M Starters
F-Ray Turner, 6-9, 233, SR, (9.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
F-Kourtney Roberson, 6-9, 238, SO, (6.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
G-Elston Turner, 6-5, 210, SR (16.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, .372 3FG%)
G-Alex Caruso, 6-5, 175, FR, (5.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.4 apg)
G-J’Mychal Reese, 6-1, 173, FR, (6.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.0 apg)
Key Reserves:*Fabyon Harris (5-11, 175, JR); Andrew Young (6-8, 250, JR); Jordan Green (6-5, 185, SO); Jarod Jahns (6-6, 205, SR)
* Listed as day-to-day with an ankle injury
Probable Tennessee Starters
F-Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, 270, SO, (12.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, .546 FG%)
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 188, SO, (7.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
G-Armani Moore, 6-3, 195, SR, (2.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg,)
G-Jordan McRae, 6-5, 180, JR, (14.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, .336 3FG5)
G-Trae Golden, 6-2, 205, JR (11.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 4.1 apg)
Key Reserves: Skylar McBee (6-3, 195, SR); Kenny Hall (6-9, 230, SR);Yemi Makanjuola (6-9, 250, SO); Derek Reese (6-7, 218, FR); Quinton Chievous (6-5, 200, RS FR)
The opening tip
Tennessee is set to take its surprising four-game winning streak to College Station for its first matchup against Texas A&M since the Aggies defected from the Big 12 to join the SEC this season.
The Vols have turned their season around in a big way this month, but now the question remains how far this run will take them. Is it a nice late-season surge that will land them the NIT or the start of a historic finish that could put them in the Big Dance?
That remains to be determined, but the first step for UT is getting its first road win against a team with a winning record. The Aggies are 12-4 at Reed Arena this season and have won their last two SEC home games over potential NCAA Tournament teams Ole Miss and Missouri.
The Aggies are led by guard Elston Turner, who can go off on any given night. Just ask Kentucky. Turner dropped 40 on the Wildcats in Lexington on Jan. 12 in an 83-71 Texas A&M win. He’s also scored 37, 26, 26, 21 and 21 this year. The Aggies are 4-1 when he contributes 20 or more.
Point guard Fabyon Harris, who is second to Turner in scoring (11.5 ppg), missed the last game at Auburn and is questionable for Saturday with an ankle injury.
A bulky frontline of Ray Turner and Kourtney Roberson could cause problems for UT when it sticks to the four-guard lineup. Tennessee has been strong on the glass for most of the year, but the Aggies could hold a substantial height advantage in the post when the Vols keep just forward Jarnell Stokes inside.
For UT, the offense will continue to flow through Stokes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be the one carrying the scoring load. That duty has been split between he, Jordan McRae and Trae Golden during the winning streak.
They’ve been forcing opponents to pick their poison when defending. Golden is averaging 18 points per game during the last four contests, while McRae is coming off a career-high 34-point effort against LSU.
With that trio leading the way, UT has reached new heights offensively during the winning streak. The Vols are shooting 50.5 percent from the field, just under 80 percent from the free-throw line and 45.8 percent from 3. The defense has been solid as well, holding opponents to an average of just 59.2 point during the run.
Tennessee coachCuonzo Martinon Elston Turner: “He does a great job of attacking the rim, making shots and shooting the pull-up. In some ways, he’s similar to Marshall Henderson [of Ole Miss] in how he scores. He comes off screens, and he knows how to shot-fake, get fouled and get to the free-throw line.”
A win on Saturday would give UT its longest winning streak of the season. The Vols could also move as high as a tie for fourth in the SEC with a win, depending on other results. . Martin is 1-0 against Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy. . Though the Vols are 4-1 in the series, they have never won in College Station. . Elston Turner’s father, Elston Turner Sr., grew up in Knoxville. . Stokes has eight double-doubles in the last 10 contests. . Tennessee is currently tied with Alabama for the SEC’s longest active winning streak of four.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga