Tennessee Tech (5-5) vs. Tennessee (5-2)
Saturday, Dec. 7, noon ET
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) . Knoxville, Tenn.
TV: Fox Sports South
Radio: Vol Network (WGOW-FM 102.3, Chattanooga)
Series Record: Tennessee leads 20-1
Probable Tennessee Tech Starters
G-Jeremoa Samarrippas, 5-10, 170, SR, (8.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.4 apg)
G-Ty Allen, 6-2, 180, JR (12.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.0 apg)
G-Javon McKay, 6-5, 195, JR, (4.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.0 apg)
F-Dennis Ogbe, 6-7, 220, SR, (9.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg, .667 FG%)
C-Dwan Caldwell, 6-8, 245, JR (11.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.0 bpg)
Key Reserves: Jordan Gaither (6-3, 170; JR); Gerald Williams (6-2; 175. SO); Jay Harris (5-10, 170, JR)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Antonio Barton, 6-2, 180, SR, (8.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, .450 3FG%)
G-Jordan McRae, 6-6, 185, SR, (19.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.0 apg)
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 190, JR, (6.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.9 apg)
F-Jeronne Maymon, 6-8, 260, SR (9.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.4 orpg)
F-Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, 260, JR, (14.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.9 orpg)
Key Reserves: Robert Hubbs III (6-6, 205, FR); Darius Thompson (6-5, 180, FR); A.J. Davis (6-9, 212, FR)
The opening tip
After a grueling three-games-in-three-days schedule in the Bahamas last week, the Vols got some time to rest, focus on their academics around exam time and prepare for the rest of the non-conference slate before turning their attention to SEC play next month.
Tennessee bounced back in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament after falling in the opener to UTEP. The Vols looked out of sync and uncomfortable against the Miners, but they quickly bounced back for comfortable wins against Xavier and Wake Forest.
Now is the time for the Vols to start racking up Ws and putting together their tournament resume. UT plays Tech, NC State, Morehead State, Virginia and Tusculum at home, in addition to a road game at Wichita State (Dec. 14), to wrap up the non-conference portion of its schedule. Winning at least five of those six would put UT in decent position heading into SEC play.
But it’ll be a one-game-at-a-time approach for coach Cuonzo Martin and his players. That starts with Tech on Saturday afternoon. The Golden Eagles are off to a 5-5 start with alternating losses and wins until winning two against East Tennessee and Utah Valley and dropping one against Lipscomb in their last three contests.
The Golden Eagles, a squad with five upperclassman starters, match up decently with the Vols in the paint with forward Dennis Ogbe (6-7, 220) and center Dwan Caldwell (6-8, 245) providing some size that can battle with UT’s duo of Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon.
Look for Tennessee to continue fine-tuning its rotation as SEC play inches closer. Stokes, Maymon, Jordan McRae, Antonio Barton, Josh Richardson, Robert Hubbs, Darius Thompson and A.J. Davis have become the main eight with others such as Armani Moore and Pops Ndiaye picking up situational minutes.
Getting the win will be the most important goal, but any opportunity to improve depth and find the best rotational combos will be a bonus for the Vols moving forward.
“If Jarnell and Jeronne are scoring around the rim and making free throws, we’re a tough team to beat because the offense flows better. Those guys have to have the ball in their hands. When those guys are scoring and rebounding the ball – I think we’re fourth in the country in offensive rebounding percentage – they’re impacting the game, and we have success.”
– Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin
The Vols are averaging just 9.9 turnovers per contest so far this season. Martin has said he thinks teams that average less than 10 per game have a great chance to be successful. . Stokes has three straight double-doubles and his scoring has picked up recently. After averaging 10 ppg through the first three contests of the season, the junior has upped his average to 17.5 ppg over the last four. . Tech assistant coach Brian Kloman is a UT grad and his father, Chris Ferguson, is a former UT assistant coach who now coaches at Oklahoma State. . The Vols play five in-state opponents this season and they are off to a 1-0 start after knocking off Tennessee State earlier in the year. . UT has won three straight at home. Dating back to last year, the Vols have won seven straight regular-season contests at home. . As a program, Tennessee is 50-2 against current members of the OVC. . UT and Tech are located approximately 100 miles from each other.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga