No. 18 Tennessee seeks to rebound vs. Mississippi State
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes knows why his then-No. 6 Volunteers were outscored by 35 points collectively in losses to Florida and No. 19 Missouri entering Tuesday's home game against Mississippi State in Knoxville, Tenn.
"We have turned the ball over 36 times, and you can't do that," he said of the Vols' past two games. "You really can't do it at home [against Missouri], and you have to give your opponent some credit for that. When people are pressuring you that hard, you've got to be able to drive the ball to get them off of you.
"We don't have enough guys right now that are willing to go make that kind of play. We've got guys with the ability to do it, but they're going to have to go and not predetermine when they're driving the ball and what they're going to do with it."
Tennessee (10-3, 4-3 SEC) fell to No. 18 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, released Monday. The Volunteers have been without Jaden Springer, who has been sidelined with an injured ankle and hasn't played since a Jan. 16 win over Vanderbilt. Springer, who averages 10 points and 2.4 assists per game, in addition to shooting 56.3 percent from beyond the arc, is a game-time decision for Tuesday against the Bulldogs (9-7, 4-4).
Santiago Vescovi, who averages 9.3 points and a team-leading 3.5 assists per game, has seen his play hampered by an injured hip.
"He's not as quick as he normally is," Barnes said, "but he'll be fine because he will do all the things with our medical people here to get it right."
The Volunteers will rely heavily on John Fulkerson, averages a team-high 11.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, and Victor Bailey Jr., who averages 11.6 points per game.
Mississippi State is also riding a two-game losing streak after falling to No. 18 Alabama, 81-73, on Saturday.
D.J. Stewart led the Bulldogs with 27 points and four steals, while Iverson Molinar added 19 points on 5-for-19 shooting.
"I thought D.J. was absolutely phenomenal today at both ends of the floor," Bulldogs coach Ben Howland said. "When you see when D.J. was in the game and I got him a little bit more rest, we were even with them. Bottom line is when he's in the game, that's when we're at our best. We have to give him a rest."
Stewart averages a team-high 18 points, just ahead of Molinar (17.5 ppg), who also averages a team-leading 3.2 assists per game. Tolu Smith averages 13.2 points and a team-leading 8.8 rebounds per game, while no other Bulldog averages more than 6.7 points per game.
Still, Howland was pleased with his team's performance against the Alabama, which led by three with just over a minute to play before scoring the game's final five points.
"I thought our guys showed a lot of fight and a lot of determination coming off our worse performance of the year," Howland said. "We came back here and gave ourselves a chance to win against the hottest team in our league."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 25, 2021