USC Upstate (1-1) vs. Tennessee (0-1)
Saturday, Nov. 16, 7:00 p.m. ET
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) . Knoxville, Tenn.
Radio: Vol Network (WGOW-FM 102.3, Chattanooga)
Series Record: First meeting
Probable USC Upstate Starters
G-Ty Greene, 6-3, 185, JR, (19.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 5.0 apg)
G-Mario Blessing, 6-2, 165, JR (4.0 ppg, .500 FG%)
F-Craig Torrey, 6-6, 215, SR, (22.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
F-Ricardo Glenn, 6-8, 246, SR, (12.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
F- Jodd Maxey, 6-8, 200, SR (3.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
Key Reserves: Babatund Olumuyiwa (6-8, 220, SR); Fred Miller (6-4, 200, JR); Shunquez Stephens (6-5,245, SO)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Antonio Barton, 6-2, 180, SR, (10.0 ppg, 4.0 apg)
G-Jordan McRae, 6-5, 185, SR, (23.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.0 apg)
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 190, JR, (13.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, .750 3FG%)
F-Jeronne Maymon, 6-8, 260, SR (7.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg)
F-Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, 270, JR, (4.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 bpg)
Key Reserves: Robert Hubbs III (6-6, 205, FR); Armani Moore (6-5, 215, SO); Darius Thompson (6-5, 180, FR); A.J. Davis (6-9, 212, FR)
The opening tip
The offense was stagnant early, the defense picked up too many fouls and the Vols didn’t look like a team that hasn’t quite gelled all of its talented parts yet.
The competition comes down a notch on Saturday, but the Vols can in no way take the Spartans lightly. They already knocked off Virginia Tech in the season opener and the Atlantic Sun squad, coached by veteran Eddie Payne, certainly has a team that’s talented and experienced enough to pull off the upset.
Knoxville native Ty Greene and senior forward Craig Torrey have been huge contributors so far in a season that has seen the Spartans knock off the favored Hokies and drop a close contest at Winthrop.
Tennessee, meanwhile, is clearly still adjusting to the rule changes this season in college basketball that cut down on defensive contact. Jarnell Stokes, one of the most physical players in the conference, especially struggled in the season opener. He played just 20 total minutes after picking up two early fouls. The Vols need him to stay on the court this season to maximize their chances of success.
The Vols will need to get off to a faster start on Saturday. They hit just one of their first 19 field-goal attempts at Xavier and dug themselves into an early hole. Tennessee has played well under coach Cuonzo Martin at Thompson-Boling Arena and the Vols have a good shot at reeling off three straight before heading to The Bahamas for tournament play.
“We have a good team. I thought we had a good team to play a road game in this type of atmosphere. We just didn’t come up with the win. We will look at the film and make the adjustments. We have to continue to pressure the ball. We have to pressure without fouling.”
– Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin‘s thoughts on his squad after the loss at Xavier
Tennessee has won 21 straight home openers. . The Vols haven’t begun a season 0-2 since the 1964-65 season. . They have knocked off their last 14 opponents from the state of South Carolina. . Dating back to last season, Tennessee has now lost three of its last four games. . The Vols are currently riding a nine-game winning streak over Atlantic Sun opponents. . Martin is 2-1 against current A-Sun squads. . The Spartans were 16-17 in 2012-13 and come into this season picked to finish third in the conference. The Atlantic Sun is the conference home of Mercer, the team that knocked Tennessee out of the NIT last year, and Florida Gulf Coast, a squad that advanced to the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed in last year’s NCAA tournament.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga