NCAA Basketball

No. 10 Tennessee hosts struggling Tennessee Tech

No. 10 Tennessee looks to remain unbeaten Friday night when it hosts winless Tennessee Tech in Knoxville.

The Volunteers (3-0) showed few weaknesses in Tuesday's lopsided 79-38 win against Appalachian State.

Led by Victor Bailey's 13 points, Tennessee had four players in double figures and 11 players with points. Backing up Bailey were John Fulkerson and Jaden Springer with 12 points each. The Vols hit 33 of 67 field goals and only turned it over six times.

Fulkerson leads the team in scoring with 12.7 points per game and shares the rebounding lead with Yves Pons at 6.7 per game.

But it has been on defense where Tennessee has been doing its best work this season. It held Appalachian State to just 12 field goals.

"We take pride in defense," Springer said. "We love getting stops and being able to get those stops and go get fast-break points on the other end."

On the season, the Vols have been holding the opposition to 47 points per game on 33.6 percent shooting.

"I'm not sure I'm surprised (by the intensity of his defense)," sixth-year coach Rick Barnes said. "Because one thing we've talked about as a team is that for one, these guys have great respect for each other and they have great respect for each other's work ethic and they know we keep talking about leadership and where they expect it."

Leading the defense are a couple of youngsters in Springer and fellow freshman Keon Johnson.

"They get up there and they really hawk the ball and everybody does it in kind of a different way," Barnes said. "As a group, they know that if they don't give us the effort they need there, that is probably the quickest way to get subbed out before they want to come out."

Tennessee Tech coach John Pelphrey knows how tough the assignment is for his Golden Eagles (0-7) in Knoxville.

But he insists his team's record doesn't tell the whole story.

Only three of the seven losses have been blowouts -- an 89-59 loss at Indiana in the season opener, a 79-48 setback at Xavier on Dec. 2 and Wednesday's 74-50 loss at Jacksonville State.

"I think if you look at it today with where we are at in our program, wins and losses aren't always indicative of where we are," said Pelphrey, who was 9-22 in his first season in 2019-20.

"That will be an indicator down the road and will be a byproduct of us doing a lot of things well. Right now, when you look at our program, we have one scholarship player."

That one scholarship player is Jr. Clay, who leads the Golden Eagles in scoring with 13.8 points per game.

A second key player for TTU is Keishawn Davidson, who averages 10.4 points per game. Damaria Franklin had 21 on Sunday against Jacksonville State.

"Even though Jr. was a good player for the previous coaching staff and has been an outstanding player for us, there are a lot of new and inexperienced basketball players on this basketball team," Pelphrey said. "We've got great DNA. We have character. We're tough, we work hard and we're resilient. We care, we serve and have unselfishness."

--Field Level Media

Updated December 17, 2020

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