Tuesday, January 4, 2011

PREVIEW: Tigers at Tennessee

Posted By on Tue, Jan 4, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Wednesday, 8 p.m., Knoxville (Thompson-Boling Arena), ESPN2

• The Volunteers enter the game with a record of 9-4. After a 7-0 start, UT has lost four of its last six games, including a pair of ugly defeats at the hands of Oakland and the College of Charleston. The Vols took down a pair of Top-10 teams from the Big East: Villanova on November 26th and Pittsburgh on December 11th. Tennessee will open its SEC schedule this Saturday at Arkansas.

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• Junior swingman Scotty Hopson paces the Vols in scoring with 16.4 points per game. He had a season-high 27 against Pitt and 24 in the loss to Charleston. Freshman forward Tobias Harris (6’8”, 226 lbs.) averages 15.0 points and 6.6 rebounds. Senior Cameron Tatum is a third threat (10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists).

• Junior Wesley Witherspoon is looking for a “bounce-back” game, having accumulated more fouls (4) than points (3) against Tennessee State last Sunday. After missing two games following knee surgery, Witherspoon hit only one of five shots against Georgetown, but then erupted for 28 points and 14 rebounds against Lipscomb on December 30th.

• The Tigers have enjoyed balanced scoring, when measured across their last five games. (The goal, of course, being to get such balance within a single game.) Memphis has had a different leading scorer in each of its last five games: Chris Crawford (18 against Austin Peay), Joe Jackson (23, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), Will Barton (18, Georgetown), Witherspoon (28, Lipscomb), and Antonio Barton (24, Tennessee State). And Tarik Black had a season-high 22 Sunday against TSU.

• Tennessee owns a 13-8 edge in the series, with the teams now meeting for a sixth straight season. The Tigers have lost three of the last four contests, including the epic showdown between the country’s top two teams on February 23, 2008. (In that game at FedExForum, #2 Tennessee beat #1 Memphis, 66-62, ending a 26-game winning streak for the Tigers.) In last season’s game at FEF, UT won 66-59. Witherspoon had 11 points and 7 rebounds in that New Year’s Eve battle. The Tigers are 3-7 in Knoxville.

• In the win over Tennessee State last weekend, the Tigers had 25 assists and only 11 turnovers. This marked the first time in eight games that Memphis had as many as four more assists than turnovers. In eight games this season, the Tigers have had more turnovers than assists. For the season, point guard Joe Jackson has 56 assists and 47 turnovers.

• Tennessee enters the game with an RPI ranking of 40, while the Tigers are ranked 67th (just behind UAB and Ole Miss). UCF (12-0) is currently the highest-ranked C-USA team at 16.

• Wednesday’s game will be the Tigers’ last before C-USA play starts this Saturday (East Carolina, FEF). Last year, Memphis entered league play with a record of 10-4.

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