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Feb 14

Williams helps No. 18 Tennessee outlast South Carolina 70-67

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — South Carolina coach Frank Martin couldn’t help but see the similarities between the team he faced Tuesday and the Final Four squad he coached last season.

”(Tennessee) reminds me a lot of my team last year, just a team that’s tied at the hip and relentless on both ends of the floor,” Martin said after the Gamecocks lost 70-67 to the 18th-ranked Volunteers.

Tennessee was just good enough Tuesday to get its NCAA Tournament drive back on track while continuing South Carolina’s slide.

Grant Williams scored 22 points and made a big basket in the closing seconds as the Vols handed the Gamecocks their sixth consecutive loss.

Tennessee (19-6, 9-4 SEC) has won seven of eight and 10 of 12 overall. This latest victory served as a nice recovery three nights after Tennessee lost 78-50 at Alabama for its most lopsided defeat of the season.

”Defensively we were a much better team tonight than we were at Alabama,” coach Rick Barnes said.

South Carolina (13-13, 4-9) continued to fade from postseason contention one season after its Final Four run. But the Gamecocks made this one interesting.

After trailing 68-59 with 2 1/2 minutes left, South Carolina scored eight straight points and pulled within one on Frank Booker’s driving basket with 36 seconds remaining.

Tennessee answered on its next possession, with Williams scoring with 11 seconds left to make it a three-point game.

”The theme with our basketball team is it came down to one stop,” Martin said. ”The defensive assignment that we laid out wasn’t executed. Listening has been a weakness for this team the whole year.”

South Carolina spent the final seconds trying to get a potential tying 3-pointer. Barnes wanted the Vols to foul before the Gamecocks could get a shot off.

Barnes didn’t get his foul, but the Gamecocks didn’t get the look they wanted, either. Justin Minaya’s 3-point attempt fell short of the front rim as the buzzer sounded.

”We were just being aggressive and understanding they were going to make a run,” Williams said. ”They’d been doing it most of the game, where they’d get it to two and we’d get it back to six or seven. It never really was a blowout of a game. You knew it was going to be competitive. They don’t really quit.”

Booker scored 19 points for South Carolina, and Chris Silva and Hassani Gravett added 12 points apiece. Jordan Bowden scored 14 and Admiral Schofield added 13 for Tennessee.


South Carolina: Although the Gamecocks lost again, they deserve credit for staying close most of the way despite dealing with foul trouble. South Carolina had lost by an average margin of 21 points in the three games leading up to this one. The Gamecocks were much more competitive this time, though occasional scoring lulls proved costly and enabled Tennessee to build a 14-point lead after South Carolina had tied it early in the second half.

Tennessee: While the Vols did a nice job of recovering from their poor performance at Alabama, their inability to put away an inferior opponent at home offers some cause for concern. Tennessee had 15 turnovers and 12 assists for its third straight game with a negative assist-turnover ratio.


The teams combined for more fouls (25) than baskets in the first half (21). All those fouls forced the Gamecocks into some unusual substitutions.

Maik Kotsar and Felipe Haase already had picked up three fouls each by halftime. Kotsar ended up playing just 10 minutes, well below his season average of 27. Jason Cudd ended up playing 14 minutes, more than twice his season average.


Tennessee had fallen from No. 15 to No. 18 after the loss to Alabama. The Vols could move back into the top 15 if they win at Georgia on Saturday.


South Carolina hosts No. 10 Auburn on Saturday.

Tennessee is at Georgia on Saturday.

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This version corrects to Frank Booker instead of Chris Booker for South Carolina.

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Feb 12

Barnes wants the No. 18 Vols to remember embarrassing loss

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee coach Rick Barnes wants his players to carry the memories of their most lopsided loss of the season for the rest of the year.

Barnes hopes those frustrating moments will help fuel the 18th-ranked Volunteers’ attempt to bounce back from a 78-50 defeat at Alabama and continue their surprising drive toward the NCAA Tournament.

”Some people say you forget it and move on,” Barnes said Monday. ”I don’t think you ever forget it. I think you remember it, because if you don’t remember it, it’s doomed to repeat itself.”

Tennessee (18-6, 8-4 SEC) wants to avoid a repeat performance Tuesday when it hosts South Carolina (13-12, 4-8), which has lost its last five games.

The Vols’ effort Saturday against Alabama was out of character for a team that had emerged as one of the nation’s best stories this season. The loss caused Tennessee to drop three spots in The AP Top 25.

Picked to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the Southeastern Conference at the start of the season, Tennessee instead is tied for second place . The Vols have done that without having a single player who was rated as a top-125 prospect, according to a composite ranking of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports .

Tennessee remains in good position.

On Sunday, the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee issued preliminary NCAA Tournament rankings , which indicated Tennessee would have earned a No. 4 seed if the tournament selections had been made that day. Tennessee hasn’t been seeded that high in an actual NCAA Tournament since getting a No. 2 seed in 2008 and hasn’t earned an NCAA bid at all since 2014.

Tennessee’s six remaining regular-season games don’t include any opponents currently in the Top 25, giving the Vols an opportunity for a fast finish. But they’re capable of losing any of those games if they play as poorly as they did against Alabama.

The Vols have outperformed preseason expectations by outworking and outhustling opponents. That didn’t happen Saturday.

Tennessee shot a season-low 28 percent from the floor, posted its lowest point total of the year and made just one basket in the last 10 minutes. A Tennessee defense that had held eight straight opponents below 64 points allowed Alabama to exceed that mark with over 10 minutes left in the game.

”From the beginning of the game, you could tell that some guys weren’t in it,” sophomore forward Grant Williams said after the game. ”Minds weren’t locked in, and we weren’t being tough.”

Tennessee never led all night and was outscored 50-18 in the paint. Before Saturday, the Vols hadn’t lost a game by more than 10 points all season. The troubles continued even after the game, as poor weather forced Tennessee to take a bus rather than flying back to campus.

Barnes was unsparing in his criticism.

He said junior forward Kyle Alexander ”played probably as poor a game (since) he’s been here going back to his freshman year, and we know he had some tough ones then.” He noted that Tennessee’s guard play ”was maybe as poor as it’s been all year.”

Tennessee’s struggles against Alabama were surprising because the team entered the game on such a roll. The Vols had capped a six-game winning streak by beating Kentucky on the road 61-59 to complete their first regular-season sweep of the Wildcats since 1998-99.

Barnes believes his players may have gotten caught up in all the positive publicity that had surrounded the program. He noted the best teams don’t allow that to happen.

”Everybody wants to know why I don’t compliment players,” Barnes said. ”It’s for a reason. They want to be complimented. That’s why they search out and look at papers when they play well. We’ve got a team of guys that I can tell you, when they have big games, it’s almost a pattern they come back and don’t play well.”

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Feb 04

No. 18 Vols trounce Mississippi 94-61 for 5th straight win

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee coach Rick Barnes usually finds some reason to criticize his team’s performance even after lopsided wins.

Not this time.

Grant Williams and Lamonte’ Turner scored 17 points each to lead five Tennessee players in double figures Saturday night as the 18th-ranked Volunteers trounced Mississippi 94-61 for their fifth straight victory.

In the second half, Tennessee scored 59 points while shooting 71.4 percent overall (20 of 28) and from 3-point range (10 of 14).

”Probably obviously the best half of the year we’ve played,” Barnes said. ”When the ball’s going in, it makes everything look good.”

The blowout enabled Tennessee (17-5, 7-3 SEC) to move into sole possession of second place in the Southeastern Conference. The Vols began the day in a three-way tie for second with No. 21 Kentucky and No. 23 Florida, which both lost Saturday.

Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield said the Vols won’t get distracted by their rise in stature. Schofield said the Vols haven’t forgotten how the SEC media projected them to finish 13th in the 14-team conference.

”We were picked 13th to start the season, so we’re always in the locker room thinking how can we get out of that 13th position,” said Schofield, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Tennessee has won eight of its last nine games while Ole Miss (11-12, 4-6) has dropped five of its last six. With eight games remaining in the regular season, Tennessee already has exceeded its 2016-17 win total. The Vols finished 16-16 last year.

Tennessee showed its enormous potential in a brilliant second-half performance. The Vols outscored Ole Miss 59-36 after halftime. They had 27 assists and only six turnovers for the game, including a 17-1 ratio in the second half.

”Today obviously was an avalanche,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. ”Unfortunately, we were under it.”

Kyle Alexander scored 14 points and Jordan Bowden added 10 for Tennessee. Bruce Stevens scored 16 points and Terence Davis added 13 for Ole Miss.

Ole Miss shuffled its lineup for this game, with 7-footer Dominik Olejniczak making his first start since Jan. 16 and forward Justas Furmanavicius starting for the first time since Dec. 31

The changes didn’t make much of a difference, as Ole Miss missed 10 of its first 11 shots and scored just three points in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the game.

After trailing 35-25 at halftime, Ole Miss cut Tennessee’s lead to 35-32 by scoring the first seven points of the second half. Tennessee answered with a 9-0 run and stayed comfortably ahead the rest of the way.


Ole Miss: The Rebels have struggled in SEC competition whenever leading scorer Deandre Burnett hasn’t been on top of his game. Burnett had just seven points and shot 2 of 13 Saturday while going scoreless in the second half. Burnett has averaged 20.8 points in Ole Miss’ four SEC wins. He missed one of the Rebels’ six SEC losses and has averaged just 9.8 points in the others.

Tennessee: The Vols are on a roll heading into a two-game road swing Tuesday at Kentucky and Feb. 10 at Alabama. But this Tennessee team has played well away from Thompson-Boling Arena so far. The Vols are 5-2 in true road games and went 2-1 in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.


Tennessee had a scary moment early in the second half when Schofield appeared to hurt his right ankle while defending a 3-point attempt by Davis.

Schofield pounded his fist on the court in frustration a few times as he lay on the floor before walking slowly into the locker room. But he ended up missing less than a minute of action before returning to the game.

”Honestly, I was worried about if he’d made the 3 or not, to be real with you, because I did not want to hear Coach Barnes’ mouth after that because I had kind of relaxed on the play and he got (the shot) off,” Schofield said. ”I was really trying to go up and block the shot. I knew I was going to be OK, but I guess it looked pretty bad.”


Tennessee already has its best ranking since December 2010 and should move even higher Monday.


Ole Miss hosts Missouri on Tuesday.

Tennessee is at No. 21 Kentucky on Tuesday.

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Feb 02

Vols’ Daniel thrives in different role with his new teeam

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former NCAA Division I scoring champion James Daniel III has willingly accepted a more complementary role with his new team this season after making the move from Howard to Tennessee.

But the graduate transfer has shown the last week he’s still capable of producing points in bunches at any level.

Daniel has averaged 16.5 points and has shot a combined 8 of 14 from 3-point range over his last two games as a catalyst for Tennessee’s productive bench crew. The 6-foot guard will try to help the 18th-ranked Volunteers (16-5, 6-3 SEC) earn their fifth straight victory Saturday when they host Mississippi (11-11, 4-5).

Tennessee’s surprising season has justified Daniel’s decision to test himself against major-conference opposition in his final season of eligibility, even though it has dramatically reduced his individual production.

”I wanted to try to win an SEC championship and also a national championship,” Daniel said. ”I felt as though we had the pieces here, with how many great players they had, that it was possible.”

Daniel’s move required him to transform his game.

He averaged 27.1 points per game for Howard in 2015-16 to lead all Division I scorers that year before injuries caused him to play just two games last season. Daniel’s 2,085 career points rank second among all active Division I players, behind only Central Arkansas’ Jordan Howard (2,230).

Daniel is averaging just 7.2 points this season while developing into more of a distributor and defender. He’s attempting just 5.4 shots per game this year after shooting 19.4 times per game for Howard two seasons ago.

He’s on pace to finish a season with more assists than baskets for the first time in his career.

”At Howard, my coach, that’s what he wanted me to do,” Daniel said. ”He needed me to score in order for us to have a chance to win. Here, my coach needs me to make open shots and play defense. For me, being able to transform my game and evolve, I feel as though I can do that.”

He wasted no time showing he could make the adjustment.

In his second game at Tennessee, Daniel scored just four points against High Point but had a career-high 10 assists without committing a single turnover. Two weeks later, he had another 10-assist, zero-turnover game against Mercer . He’s the first Vol to have multiple games with 10-plus assists in the same season since LaMarcus Golden in 1993-94.

”I don’t think he put his self-worth in wanting to be the nation’s leading scorer,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. ”I don’t think that. I do think one reason he wanted to come is to help be part of a winning program. I think he could help us do that – and he has.”

Although he’s coming off the bench, Daniel has a team-high 3.5 assists per game. Daniel also can still score when called upon.

After going seven straight games without exceeding seven points, Daniel scored 16 points last weekend in a 68-45 blowout at Iowa State . He followed that up by scoring 17 Wednesday in an 84-61 victory over LSU .

He’s a big reason why Tennessee has outscored opponents 134-48 in bench points during its four-game winning streak. In three of the Vols’ last four games, Tennessee’s reserves have outscored their starters.

”To have somebody like that who went out two years ago and had 27 points per game, who knows what he’s doing and to come in here and now be able to get 10 assists (in a) game and pick up fullcourt – and you know in the back of your head he can still go for 20 – that’s lethal,” junior forward Kyle Alexander said. ”That’s something we need.”

Daniel also provides experience as the lone senior on Tennessee’s roster. He’s been around the game long enough to understand his new responsibilities and realize that making an NCAA Tournament run is much more important than scoring at a higher rate.

”You ask anybody who plays basketball, (and) of course scoring is a fun part of the game, but we’re winning,” Daniel said. ”That’s all I really want to do.”

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Feb 01

No. 18 Tennessee trounces LSU 84-61 for 4th straight win

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s bench strength enabled the Volunteers to survive the temporary absence of their leading scorer.

Once Grant Williams returned from an injury, the Vols breezed to their fourth straight victory.

James Daniel III scored 17 points off the bench Wednesday night as No. 18 Tennessee trounced LSU 84-61.

With nine games remaining in the regular season, Tennessee (16-5, 6-3 SEC) already has matched its 2016-17 win total.

”I think this team can be one of the best in the country, if not the best,” said Williams, who scored 16 points despite spending much of the first half in the locker room. ”We can compete with anybody in the country, especially when we’re playing the way we’re supposed to.”

Tennessee went 16-16 last year and failed to earn an NCAA Tournament or NIT bid for a third straight season. That streak appears likely to end this year, thanks in part to the Vols’ improved bench.

During this winning streak, Tennessee has outscored opponents 134-48 in bench points. In three of its last four games, Tennessee has gotten more points from its bench than its starting five. Tennessee’s reserves outscored LSU’s 44-8.

”We really just try to come in and change the tempo and energy of the game,” Daniel said of Tennessee’s reserves. ”I really feel when we come in, the game gets a lot faster. We get after guys out there.”

Jordan Bone and Lamonte’ Turner scored 12 points each for Tennessee, and Bone also had eight assists with no turnovers. Duop Reath scored 21 and Randy Onwuasor had 10 for LSU, which lost for the fifth time in its last six games.

Tennessee got a scare less than two minutes into the game when Williams landed awkwardly after attempting to get a rebound, causing the sophomore forward to walk slowly off the floor.

The Vols showcased their depth by outscoring LSU 26-17 while Williams was out of the game. Tennessee led 28-21 when Williams returned to action with 7:25 left in the first half and stayed ahead the rest of the way.

”When they don’t have their best player, you should be able to hang in there a little bit better than that,” LSU coach Will Wade said. ”When he came back, they were up (seven), so it’s going to be a long march to climb back in from that point.”

Tennessee also exploited LSU’s lack of depth.

Wade announced Monday that two reserves were suspended for one game each and two more were taking leaves of absence, leaving the Tigers with only seven available scholarship players to face Tennessee.

Guard Brandon Rachal and forward Wayde Sims were suspended for Wednesday’s game. Sims has made eight starts this season, but none in conference play. Rachal has been coming off the bench all season.

Forward Galen Alexander won’t play the rest of the season and is exploring a transfer. Forward Mayan Kiir has taken a leave of absence for the rest of the semester, but has the option of returning to the team next season.

Wade said after the game that their absences didn’t impact Wednesday’s result.


LSU: Freshman Tremont Waters continued his recent slump by shooting 1 of 9 and scoring seven points. Waters entered the night with a team-high 15.2 points per game, but he has scored in double figures just once in his last five games. He has shot 2 of 16 over his last two games.

Tennessee: Bone remained in the starting lineup even as Turner and Daniel were outplaying him recently. Bone backed up the staff’s confidence in him with a big performance against LSU. Bone’s eight assists matched a career high he set last season against Appalachian State. Bone had scored a total of seven points in his last four games, so his 12-point outburst against LSU was an encouraging sign.


Tennessee outscored LSU 36-9 from 3-point range. Tennessee shot 12 of 25 and LSU was 3 of 19 from beyond the arc.


Tennessee already has its highest ranking since December 2010 and should continue to rise next week if it follows this victory up by beating Mississippi on Saturday.


LSU hosts Arkansas on Saturday.

Tennessee hosts Mississippi on Saturday.

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Jan 29

No. 18 Tennessee eager to avoid another February fade

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee coach Rick Barnes isn’t satisfied.

While he is pleased the Volunteers have risen to their highest ranking since December 2010, Barnes sees plenty of room for improvement.

Barnes wants to ensure his 18th-ranked Vols avoid another of those February fades that tainted the first two years of his Tennessee tenure. Barnes is counting on the memories of those slides to prevent history from repeating itself.

”That’s what you hope, when your team starts getting older, that they realize this is the month when things start to get separated,” Barnes said. ”If you want to be one of those teams that people are talking about in another month, this month’s important.”

Tennessee rose four spots in the Top 25 after a week in which it beat Vanderbilt 67-62 at home and posted a 68-45 Big12/SEC Challenge victory at Iowa State that represented the Cyclones’ most lopsided home loss since 1959.

The Vols (15-5, 5-3 SEC) have won six of their last seven games to move closer to their first NCAA Tournament bid since a regional semifinal appearance in 2014. They’re tied for third in the Southeastern Conference standings , two games behind No. 11 Auburn (19-2, 7-1).

Tennessee hosts LSU (11-9, 2-7) on Wednesday in the first of two straight games at Thompson-Boling Arena, where the Vols’ average attendance of 16,003 ranks eighth nationally and represents a 17.3 percent increase over last year’s final average of 13,637.

Being in good position in late January doesn’t guarantee anything in March.

Tennessee was 13-9 and on the NCAA Tournament bubble last season before losing seven of its last 10 games, as leading scorer Robert Hubbs III played down the stretch with a knee injury that limited his effectiveness. The Vols also dropped seven of their last 10 games in 2015-16 and couldn’t recover after leading scorer Kevin Punter Jr. had a season-ending foot injury.

Barnes believes the depth of the SEC makes it imperative that Tennessee not take anything for granted. He said Tennessee must upgrade its rebounding, ball-screen defense and overall offensive execution while also improving the consistency of its work ethic in each and every game.

”I’ll be shocked if the winner of this league doesn’t have four, five or six losses,” Barnes said. ”This league is that good. If our guys at this point in time think they can take any nights off, we won’t win. It’s plain and simple.”

Bench strength and improved defense have played major roles in Tennessee’s surge. After losing its first two SEC games and yielding at least 94 points in each of them, Tennessee has allowed just 62.3 points per game over its last seven contests.

During its current three-game winning streak, Tennessee has outscored its opponents 90-40 in bench points. Sophomore guard Lamonte’ Turner has led the way by scoring 20 points off the bench against Iowa State and 25 in a 70-63 victory at South Carolina . Turner also hasn’t committed a turnover in his last 79 minutes.

Barnes says he doesn’t plan to move Turner into the starting lineup and noted that ”I think Lamonte’ would probably tell you he’d rather be a finisher than a starter anyway.” Turner’s production reflects the improved depth that has created more competition while making Tennessee more capable of surviving an injury to a key performer than it was in the past.

”Maybe (if) we get hurt, we can overcome some things we haven’t been able to do in the past,” Barnes said. ”Also, if guys want to take things for granted, there’s someone waiting there to take those minutes.”

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Jan 26

Big 12/SEC Challenge showcases depth of both conferences

Parity in the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 races has raised the stakes of Saturday’s Big 12/SEC Challenge as teams in both leagues try to upgrade their NCAA Tournament credentials.

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said this week he’d be disappointed if the SEC doesn’t get eight or nine NCAA Tournament bids this year, which would represent its highest total. Kansas coach Bill Self believes all 10 Big 12 members remain in NCAA contention and says the league realistically could get eight bids.

”There’s not a deeper league in America,” Self said.

But the depth of both leagues could prove costly.

Every team in the Big 12 already has at least two conference losses. No. 19 Auburn and No. 20 Florida are the only SEC teams that haven’t already lost at least three league games. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla noted the possibility that SEC and Big 12 teams might ”cannibalize” one another in league play, knocking potentially worthy teams out of NCAA Tournament consideration.

”I think it’s possible that each of these leagues could put as many as eight teams in the field,” Fraschilla said, ”but I also think the danger is that in conference play, they’ll beat each other up, especially in the middle of the pack.”

Now these teams have an opportunity to take a break from league play and earn a quality nonconference win.

Saturday’s Big 12/SEC Challenge matchups include No. 14 Texas Tech at South Carolina, Baylor at Florida, Mississippi at Texas, Georgia at Kansas State, No. 12 Oklahoma at Alabama, No. 22 Tennessee at Iowa State, TCU at Vanderbilt, Texas A&M at No. 5 Kansas, Oklahoma State at Arkansas and Kentucky at No. 7 West Virginia.

Kentucky’s trip to West Virginia gives the Wildcats an opportunity for redemption after falling out of the Top 25 for the first time since March 2014. The SEC team has no teams ranked higher than 19th.

Wildcats coach John Calipari says that reflects outdated opinions about the SEC, which sent three teams to regional finals last year but hasn’t earned more than five NCAA bids in a single season since 2008.

”The only thing that kind of gets me is we have some teams lose a couple of games and all of a sudden, you start dropping like a rock, and not just us,” Calipari said. ”In other leagues, you lose two or three in a row or two in a row, and it doesn’t really affect you. That’s the dregs from the old SEC.”

Every team in the Big 12 is at least three games over .500 , which explains why Self believes all 10 members still have legitimate NCAA hopes.

”Let’s say a team that’s maybe struggled with its league record so far could get a Challenge win and then get hot and get to 8-10 or 9-9 in our league,” Self said. ”I think it would be very difficult to keep them out of the tournament.”

Here are some things to watch in the Big 12/SEC Challenge:

WHERE’S AUBURN?: Because the SEC has 14 members and the Big 12 has only 10 teams, four SEC teams don’t participate in this event each year. This year, one of the missing teams is No. 19 Auburn, which leads the SEC and has the best RPI of any team in the SEC or Big 12. Auburn instead is hosting LSU. The other SEC teams absent from the Challenge are Missouri and Mississippi State.

FRESHMAN PHENOMS: The Oklahoma-Alabama game features two of the nation’s top freshmen in Oklahoma’s Trae Young and Alabama’s Collin Sexton. Young, a front-runner for national player of the year honors , leads all Division I players in scoring (30.3) and assists (9.6). Sexton is averaging 18.5 points to rank third in the SEC .

BIG 12 SUPREMACY: The Big 12 owns a 25-15 edge in the four-year history of this event. The Big 12 won this event 7-3 in 2013-14, 6-4 in 2014-15 and 7-3 in 2016-17. The SEC and Big 12 split their 10 matchups last season.

OPPORTUNITY FOR AGGIES: Texas A&M was ranked as high as fifth in the country before conference play but has gone just 2-6 in SEC competition. The Aggies’ trip to Kansas gives them a chance to rejuvenate their NCAA Tournament hopes against a top-five opponent.

RPI WATCH: The Big 12 enters the weekend with five of the top 22 teams in the RPI : Oklahoma (8th), Kansas (9th), TCU (16th), Texas Tech (19th) and West Virginia (22nd). All 10 Big 12 teams are in the top 100. The SEC has six teams in the top 35: Auburn (7th), Tennessee (12th), Kentucky (17th), Arkansas (24th), Texas A&M (34th) and Alabama (35th). The only SEC team outside the top 100 is Vanderbilt (134th).

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Jan 24

No. 22 Tennessee hangs on to beat Vanderbilt 67-62

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee guard Jordan Bowden disagreed with his coach’s assessment this week that the sophomore guard wasn’t slumping.

He made sure to break out in a big way on Tuesday night.

Bowden scored 19 points and shot 5 of 7 from 3-point range as Tennessee built a 20-point second-half lead before hanging on for a 67-62 victory over Vanderbilt.

”Mainly it was my teammates who just kept telling me to keep shooting the ball, keep shooting the ball,” Bowden said. ”Derrick Walker, before every game, he tells me, ‘You’re the best shooter in the country.’ It gives me that confidence every game.”

Tennessee (14-5, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) earned its fifth win in six games and withstood a brilliant performance from Vanderbilt’s Riley LaChance, who scored all of his 25 points in the second half as the Commodores got to within two in the closing minutes.

Bowden is shooting 53.8 percent (35 of 65) from 3-point range this season. His efficient night came after he had just two points in a loss at Missouri and went scoreless in a victory at South Carolina last week.

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said Monday he didn’t think Bowden was in a slump. Barnes noted at the time that a slumping player ”won’t take the shots he should take” and that Bowden was avoiding that trap.

Bowden said he did believe he was slumping, and his relief was evident when his shots started falling against Vanderbilt.

”What I’ve been waiting on for the past two games, finally seeing one go in,” Bowden said. ”It was a good thing to see.”

After leading 41-21 with 14 1/2 minutes left, Tennessee barely survived.

Tennessee was clinging to a 60-58 advantage after Vanderbilt’s Jeff Roberson made one of two free-throw attempts with 1:19 remaining. Tennessee’s Lamonte’ Turner answered by sinking a 3-pointer with 1:03 left.

LaChance missed a 3-point attempt on Vanderbilt’s next possession to set up a layup by Bowden that extended Tennessee’s lead to 65-58 with 33 seconds remaining. The Vols’ advantage wouldn’t drop below five the rest of the way.

”They got back in the game, but at the end we found a way,” Barnes said. ”Lamonte’ Turner’s shot was a big one.”

The Commodores were seeking to beat Tennessee in Knoxville for a fourth straight season, but poor shooting nearly knocked Vanderbilt out of contention early.

Vanderbilt’s Payton Willis made a 3-pointer 40 seconds into the game to open the scoring, but the Commodores missed their next 17 3-point attempts before LaChance heated up.

LaChance went 4 of 4 from 3-point range in a span of 2 1/2 minutes and ended up scoring 15 straight Vanderbilt points to start the rally. But his huge second half couldn’t reduce the sting of a loss to an in-state rival.

”We lost, so we’re all very disappointed,” LaChance said. ”The way we played the first half was nowhere near how hard and how well we need to play.”

Roberson added 21 points for Vanderbilt. Grant Williams had 18 points for Tennessee.


Vanderbilt: The Commodores showed plenty of fight to get back into the game, but the first half also showed how hard it is for Vanderbilt to find offense when its 3-point shots aren’t falling. Promising freshman guard Saben Lee went scoreless in 20 minutes and wasn’t on the floor during the Commodores’ comeback.

Tennessee: Derrick Walker continues to show he could add some depth to Tennessee’s frontcourt the rest of the season. The freshman scored 10 points Saturday in a victory at South Carolina to double his previous career high. He followed that up Tuesday by collecting five points and six rebounds in just 17 minutes.


Vanderbilt announced before the game that senior guard Matthew Fisher-Davis would miss the rest of the season with an injured right shoulder. Fisher-Davis has made 70 career starts and was averaging 11.9 points per game to rank second on the team.

The Commodores have gone 1-2 since Fisher-Davis’ injury.


LaChance and Roberson shot a combined 17 of 32 and teamed up for 46 points. The rest of Vanderbilt’s roster shot 6 of 25 and combined for just 16 points. … LaChance was 4 of 9 from 3-point range, while all the other Commodores were 1 of 15.


Vanderbilt hosts TCU on Saturday.

Tennessee is at Iowa State on Saturday.

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Jan 22

No. 22 Vols still sorting out which combinations work best

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee coach Rick Barnes continues searching for the right combinations to put on the floor even as his team remains in the Top 25 and moves closer to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014.

The shuffling was particularly evident Saturday in Tennessee’s 70-63 victory at South Carolina as Lamonte’ Turner and Derrick Walker delivered notable performances off the bench and Yves Pons made a surprise appearance.

”We’re going to use all our guys,” Barnes said. ”Some nights, it might be this guy or that guy getting the call. The next game, it might be someone else.”

The unsettled rotation hasn’t bothered the 22nd-ranked Volunteers.

Tennessee (13-5, 4-3 SEC) has won four of its last five games heading into a home matchup Tuesday with Vanderbilt (7-12, 2-5) as the Vols seek a regular-season sweep of their in-state rival. Tennessee rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to win 92-84 at Vanderbilt on Jan. 9.

The Vols have received reliable production from forwards Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield, who combined for 59 points in the first Vanderbilt game.

”Williams obviously controlled the game, him and Schofield,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. ”We’re going to have to try and do something to try and neutralize them better.”

Williams scored 37 points against Vanderbilt and is averaging 16.4 points to rank fifth in the SEC . Schofield had 22 against Vanderbilt and has scored in double figures in 13 consecutive games.

Tennessee hasn’t gotten that kind of consistency from anyone else.

”I think we’re at our best when we have great balance in scoring, as opposed to Grant Williams getting 30-some points,” Barnes said.

The streakiness is most apparent in the backcourt.

Starting point guard Jordan Bone averages 8.2 points, but he’s scored a total of three points over Tennessee’s last two games. Jordan Bowden averages 9.8 points as the Vols’ starting shooting guard, but he went scoreless against South Carolina and had just two points last week in a 59-55 loss at Missouri .

Tennessee’s bench picked up the slack against South Carolina. Turner had 25 points against the Gamecocks to match his career high. Walker, a freshman forward, shot 5 of 5 and had 10 points to double his previous career high. Yves Pons, another freshman forward, had 12 minutes of action against South Carolina after not playing at all for six straight games.

Turner’s production reflects the up-and-down progress of Tennessee’s guards. He has scored at least 24 points three times this season but has reached double figures just four times in his last 11 games. Barnes says Turner is at his best when he concentrates on defense and rebounding rather than worrying so much about scoring.

”Every time he has a big scoring game, he comes out and thinks that’s what he has to do every game and he ends up getting himself back on the bench,” Barnes said. ”I’d say this is true of all of our guards or all of our players – when they’re locked into what they need to do on the defensive end, the offense will take care of itself.”

Barnes said that ”something drastic would have to happen” for him to make a change in the starting lineup at point guard, but he isn’t shy about making other changes in regard to playing time. He showed that Saturday when Walker and Pons had increased roles at the expense of John Fulkerson, who averages 10.9 minutes but didn’t play at all against South Carolina.

Tennessee’s bench performance against South Carolina was an encouraging sign for a team that perhaps relied too much on its top players the last couple of seasons.

The Vols couldn’t recover two years ago when leading scorer Kevin Punter Jr. had a season-ending injury . Tennessee also struggled down the stretch last season when top scorer Robert Hubbs III played hurt , limiting his effectiveness.

This season, the Vols may have the depth to withstand that type of adversity.

”We want these guys realizing every day is an opportunity and a chance to get getter,” Barnes said, ”and we hope they’ll take advantage of it.”

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Jan 14

No. 24 Vols win 75-62 to hand Texas A&M 5th straight loss

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee showed it can win even when Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield aren’t scoring in bunches.

Jordan Bowden scored 15 points and the 24th-ranked Volunteers withstood cold shooting from their two top weapons to beat Texas A&M 75-62 on Saturday, handing the Aggies their fifth straight loss.

”We’re a very deep team,” said Tennessee’s Kyle Alexander, who added a career-high 14 points. ”Anybody can step up and help the team win and perform on any given night. We have so much depth, we can just go to anybody.”

Tennessee (12-4, 3-2 SEC) has won three straight since dropping its first two SEC games. The streak started when Williams and Schofield combined for 38 points against Kentucky and continued when the duo teamed up for 59 points at Vanderbilt.

The two forwards combined to shoot just 7 of 25 against Texas A&M’s size Saturday, with Schofield getting 12 points and Williams having just nine. Tennessee won anyway because other players stepped up.

Bowden led the Vols in scoring and continued to sizzle from 3-point range. He went 2 of 4 on 3-pointers Saturday and is 30 of 49 from beyond the arc this season.

Alexander arguably was an even bigger factor. The 6-foot-9 junior shot 5 of 6 from the field and had six points and three blocks to go along with his scoring.

”From start to finish, Kyle was terrific,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes, who coached his 1,000th game and improved his career record to 647-353.

Tennessee’s balanced attack continued Texas A&M’s stunning slide.

After being ranked fifth in the nation at the start of SEC play, Texas A&M (11-6, 0-5) hasn’t won since.

The Aggies have been playing at far less than full strength during SEC play.

Duane Wilson came off the bench and had six points and six assists Saturday after missing three games with a knee injury. Admon Gilder returned to action Tuesday at Kentucky after missing five games with a knee injury. This marked DJ Hogg’s third game with the Aggies since serving a three-game suspension. Robert Williams had missed a loss at LSU last weekend due to illness.

Gilder scored 16 points, Hogg had 13 and Tonny Trocha-Morelos added 10 for Texas A&M

”It’s a tough league,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. ”You can’t have some of the things we’ve been through the last couple of weeks – not having starters and starting different lineups every game – going into a league that’s this good right now. You’ve got to be at your best every night. If you’re not at your best, you’re going to get beat.”

The Aggies’ last two losses before this game were decided by one point each – a 69-68 setback to LSU decided on an off-balance 3-pointer in the final second and a 74-73 decision at No. 21 Kentucky.

This one wasn’t so close.

Tennessee forced 13-first-half turnovers to take a 36-28 halftime lead and extended the margin to double digits in the second half. The Aggies went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 65-59 with 3:41 remaining, but they couldn’t get any closer.


Texas A&M: The Aggies can only hope history repeats itself now that they’re finally getting back to full strength. Texas A&M lost five straight SEC games midway through the 2015-16 season before rallying to win a share of the SEC title and reach an NCAA regional semifinal.

Tennessee: The Vols have led by at least nine points in each of their four losses this season. They’re maintaining their leads now, in part because they’re shooting free throws so well. Tennessee was 20 of 23 from the line Saturday and has gone 45 of 51 over its last two games.


Texas A&M entered the night with an SEC-leading plus-8.5 rebound margin but got dominated on the glass by Tennessee. The Vols outrebounded Texas A&M 38-29 – including 21-11 in the second half – and outscored the Aggies 11-3 in second-chance points.


Tennessee forward Jalen Johnson played a career-high nine minutes Saturday and was on the floor for eight minutes in the first half. The redshirt freshman had played a total of one minute in the nine games leading up to this one.


Texas A&M: Hosts Mississippi on Tuesday night.

Tennessee: At Missouri on Wednesday night.

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