The Tennesseebasketball team visits Oxford, Miss., to take on the 23rd-ranked Ole Miss Rebels Thursday at C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum. When the action tips off at 7 p.m. ET, the Rebels (15-2, 4-0 SEC) will be looking to preserve their unblemished record in SEC play. The Volunteers (9-7, 1-3 SEC), meanwhile, will be scrapping for their first true road win of the season.
Victory in opponents’ gyms has been elusive for UT, which has visitedGeorgetown,Virginia,AlabamaandKentuckythus far.Tennessee’s average margin of defeat in those contests was 5.5 points.
“I think there were spurts in (those games), especially late, where you give yourself a chance to win and there is a turnover, a missed assignment, a missed box-out and they make a play,” Martin said. “That’s what happens when you’re at home; those teams find ways to win games. We’ve put ourselves in position, now we have to close it out.”
The key to closing it out?
“It’s hard to say one thing,” Martin said. “It’s getting key stops when you need to, not turning the ball over in key situations and making key plays. Simple as that, in my opinion.”
It will take a complete, 40-minute effort to earn that breakthrough road win Thursday inOxford. The Rebels rank third nationally in scoring, putting up 82.4 points per game.
In SEC games, the Rebels not only have the league’s top scorer – guard Marshall Henderson averages 21.3 ppg – but they also boast the league’s top two rebounders – Reginald Buckner (11.5 rpg) and Murphy Holloway (9.8 rpg).
As a team, Ole Miss leads the conference in scoring (80.2 ppg), free-throw percentage (.754), total rebounding (42.0 rpg) and offensive rebounding (13.8 orpg) in league games.
“They’re definitely a real tough team this year,” Vols sophomore Josh Richardson said Tuesday. “Hendersonwas a great addition to their team. And with (Jarvis) Summers running their team – he’s got a great assist-to-turnover ratio – it will be a tough game.”
While Summers’ name flies somewhat under the radar due to the presence of Henderson, Holloway and Buckner, the Vols are aware of the impact the Rebels’ sophomore point guard can have on a game.
“Summers is definitely a great player,”Richardsonsaid. “He’s really good off the dribble. We definitely need to keep pressure on him the whole game. We can’t let him get comfortable like we did the last game.”
That last game, back on Jan. 9 inKnoxville, saw Ole Miss hand the Vols a 92-74 defeat. Now,Tennesseelooks to return the favor on the Rebels’ home floor.
“You keep putting yourself in position to win, so now it’s just a matter of learning from (the previous road losses) and getting yourself over the hump,” Martin said. “(It’s about) learning what happened, getting that key stop and communication. Five guys depending on each other to get those key stops and carrying out those key assignments.”
EMPHASIS OF THE DAY
Tuesday’s “Emphasis of the Day” – daily midcourt talking points spearheaded by head coach Cuonzo Martin prior to each practice – focused on unity.
Unity is the key to peace and success:
- 1. Focus on what we have in common
- 2. Be realistic in our expectations
- 3. Choose to encourage rather than criticize
- 4. Refuse to listen to gossip
- 5. Let us battle together
HOME ATTENDANCE UP FROM LAST SEASON
Tennesseeentered this week with nation’s seventh-highest average home attendance. In their nine home contests thus far, the Volunteers have drawn an average of 16,686 fans per game.
That figure is actually up from last season through nine home games (16,028). With attendance at Thompson-Boling Arena increased by approximately 650 fans, Tennesseehas posted a 7-2 record on Rocky Top, including wins over then-23rd-rankedWichitaState, Xavier andMississippiState.
Tennesseehas ranked in the top five nationally in average regular-season home attendance for each of the last five seasons. And dating to the 2005-06 campaign, the Vols have played in front of 48 home crowds larger than 20,000.
Tennesseeis the only Division I school ever to rank in the top five nationally in attendance for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.
COACHES VS. CANCER “SUITS AND SNEAKERS” WEEKEND
The National Association of Basketball Coaches’ annual Coaches vs. Cancer Suits And Sneaker awareness weekend take place Jan. 25-27.TennesseehostsAlabamaon Saturday, Jan. 26, at Thompson-Boling Arena (2:05 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
NABC coaches acrossAmericawill be wearing sneakers during their games to show support for Coaches vs. Cancer – a joint effort of the American Cancer Society and the NABC that empowers basketball coaches to help make a difference in the fight against cancer.
Cuonzo Martin and his entireTennesseecoaching staff will wear adidas sneakers with their suits Saturday.
Martin is a cancer survivor, as his professional playing career was cut short due to a bout with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He received his last treatment on April 20, 1998, and is now in full remission.