Virginia (9-3) at Tennessee (7-4)
Monday, Dec. 30, 7:00 p.m. ET
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) . Knoxville, Tenn.
Radio: Vol Network (WGOW-FM 102.3, Chattanooga)
Series Record: Virginia leads 8-4
Probable Virginia Starters
G-London Perrantes, 6-2, 190, FR, (3.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.3 apg)
G-Malcolm Brogdon, 6-5, 215, SO (10.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.3 spg)
G-Joe Harris, 6-6, 225, SR, (11.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, .400 3FG%)
F-Anthony Gill, 6-8, 230, SO, (9.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 683 FG%)
F-Akil Mitchell 6-8, 235, SR (6.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.5 apg)
Key Reserves: Justin Anderson (6-6, 225, SO); Mike Tobey (6-11, 250, SO); Darion Atkins (6-8, 235, JR)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Antonio Barton, 6-2, 180, SR, (6.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.6 apg)
G-Jordan McRae, 6-6, 185, SR, (18.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.5 apg)
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 190, JR, (7.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, .389 3FG%)
F-Jeronne Maymon, 6-8, 260, SR (11.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, .519 FG%)
F-Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, 260, JR, (13.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 4.2 orpg)
Key Reserves: Robert Hubbs III (6-6, 205, FR); Darius Thompson (6-5, 180, FR); A.J. Davis (6-9, 212, FR); Derek Reese (6-8, 220, SO)
The opening tip
Tennessee’s rocky start has made virtually every other game on the schedule important in terms of reaching this team’s goal – the NCAA tournament.
That’s especially true for Monday night’s game against Virginia – a team jockeying for tournament contention itself,l and the last chance for the Vols to score a quality non-conference win. Only Division-II Tusculum remains on the non-conference slate, so this really is UT’s last opportunity to advance itself before SEC play.
But defeating the 9-3 Cavaliers is far from a given for UT, and the Vols know that all-too-well from last season. Tennessee dropped a 46-38 contest at Charlottesville in 2012, a game in which the Vols shot just 32 percent from the field for their second-worst scoring output of the Cuonzo Martin era.
And like last year, this year’s Virginia team can grind an opponent out with meticulous offensive sets and stingy defense. The Cavs are allowing opponents to score just 54.2 points per game through 12 contests in 2013.
They like to pack the lanes and force tough outside shots. Tennessee has been streaky, at best, from 3-point territory, converting on just over 31 percent of their attempts.
Perhaps that’s an area that Derek Reese, a surprise addition to the rotation last game, can help the Vols in. The 6-foot-8 sophomore can stretch opposing defenses with his length and 3-point shot.
Forwards Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon, the top rebounding duo in the SEC, will need to continue to control the glass. Second-shot opportunities will be important against a squad that doesn’t allow too many scoring chances over the course of 40 minutes.
“They’re physical and they play defense without fouling, but they make you work when they’re on offense as well. They move the ball, and they might take 25 seconds of the shot clock. So your strong-side and your weak-side defense needs to be tough. You need to be locked in. When the shot clock runs down, for them that’s normal. They still execute their offense. For most teams, when the shot clock runs down, that’s panic mode.”
– Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin
There are a few connections between the two squads. Martin and UVA coach Tony Bennett were both on the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s World University staff. Stokes and UVA forward Mike Tobey played on the USA basketball U19 National Team this past summer. UT guard Jordan McRae and Virginia forward Akil Mitchell also both participated in the LeBron James Skill Academy this past summer. . Tennessee is 1-1 against the ACC this year with a win over Wake Forest and a loss against NC State. The Cavs have yet to play an SEC team and there are no common opponents for the two squads.