Vols get another chance against Aggies

Knoxville, Tenn.--(UTSports) It was a tale of two halves when the Tennessee basketball team hosted Texas A&M at Thompson-Boling Arena Jan. 11.

The Volunteers saw a 14-point halftime lead erode into a nail-biter in the closing moments of regulation. Ultimately, an off-balance 3-point heave by Aggies forward Antwan Space found the bottom of the net with 4.4 seconds left on the game clock, and Texas A&M emerged with a 57-56 come-from-behind victory.

The rematch takes place Saturday at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas. Tipoff is set for 3:05 p.m. ET/2:05 p.m. CT, and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

Before Thursday’s practice at Pratt Pavilion, UT head coach Cuonzo Martin met with reporters and explained what went wrong during the final 20 minutes of the previous clash with the Aggies in Knoxville.

“In the first half, I thought we did a great job defensively and offensively,” Martin said. “In the second half, we had a tremendous amount of breakdown. We allowed their guys to get into the lane. We were not protecting on the backside. And we looked slow offensively – we got stagnant.”

Tennessee (16-10, 7-6 SEC) travels to Texas fresh off a dominant home win against the upstart Georgia Bulldogs, and Martin hopes the complete, 40-minute effort his Vols put together in that victory will carry over into Saturday’s game.

“The thing I talk to our guys about is consistency on both ends of the floor,” Martin said. “(Defensively), protecting that lane, weakside guys helping and rotating, closing out with our hands up, containing the dribble. I thought we did a great job against Georgia.

“We know what to do. It’s just a matter of doing it from start to finish.”

Tennessee senior Antonio Barton – who drained four 3-pointers Tuesday vs. Georgia – performed well against the Aggies back in January, totaling 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal.

“Yes, (I remember that game well),” Barton told reporters Thursday. “I believe I shot the ball well and attacked the rim. I just have to come out and have that same mentality: shoot and be aggressive.”

Saturday’s contest concludes a two-game homestand for Texas A&M (14-11, 5-7 SEC). The Aggies play host to Alabama Thursday night.

Tennessee currently sits in a four-way tie for fourth place in the SEC standings, with five regular-season games left to play.

Tennessee leads its all-time series with Texas A&M 5-2, dating to 1951. In College Station, the series is tied at 1-1 (both games were played at the Aggies’ current facility, Reed Arena).

Saturday’s contest marks just the third meeting between the programs since the Aggies joined the SEC prior to the 2012-13 season. They have split the previous two clashes as conference rivals.

Led by third-year head coach Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M (14-11, 5-7 SEC) boast league wins over Tennessee (57-56 on Jan. 11 in Knoxville), Arkansas, South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU.

The Aggies’ roster features eight players who average more than 5.0 points per game this season – that includes six players who exceed that mark in SEC play.

Leading scorer Jamal Jones averages 15.6 points against league opposition. Sophomore guard Alex Caruso, meanwhile, is one of the SEC’s top playmakers, averaging 4.8 assists in SEC play.

Vols junior Josh Richardson is friends with Aggies junior Jordan Green, as they played against one another in AAU ball. Richardson is from Edmond, Ok., and Green is a native of Flower Mound, Texas.

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin has a 2-1 edge in head-to-head meetings against Kennedy.

With March on the horizon, there are several current Vols who are well on the way to making their mark in the Tennessee basketball record book.

Although he is just a junior, forward Jarnell stokes already ranks among the school’s all-time top 15 in five different statistical categories. The Memphis, Tenn., native’s 291 career offensive rebounds rank fourth in UT history. Stokes has a legitimate shot at breaking the record of 302, held by Wayne Chism (2006-10).

His career average of 3.83 offensive rebounds per game would set a new standard at UT, if he can maintain it.

Offensive rebounds have only been tracked as an official stat at Tennessee since the 1996-97 season.

Stokes also ranks fifth in school history for career double-doubles (33), 13th in total rebounding (710) and 14th in blocks (86).

Fellow forward Jeronne Maymon, a senior from Madison, Wis., owns a career average of 2.89 offensive rebounds per game. If that holds fairly steady, it would rank second in school history, behind only Stokes.

In the backcourt, senior guard Jordan McRae has already cemented his place as one of Tennessee’s 20 most-prolific scorers of all-time. His 1,331 points rank 22nd on UT’s career chart.

McRae’s 162 career 3-pointers place him 10th in school history. Current Indiana Pacers point guard C.J. Watson (2003-06) sits in ninth place with 165 career triples.

McRae also has made his mark defensively, as his 84 career blocked shots rank 15th in Tennessee history. Standing 6-6, he is the only player in UT’s all-time top 15 who is shorter than 6-7.

Earlier this season, McRae joined Chism and Vincent Yarbrough (1999-2002) as the only Vols in history to total 1,200 points, 300 rebounds, 150 assists and 75 blocks.

Tickets for the 2014 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament remain available for purchase through the UT Ticket Office. This year’s tournament takes place March 12-16 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Full tournament books are $375 and can be purchased online at UTtix.com or by calling 1-800-332-8657.

All 14 SEC teams participate in the tournament. Only the four lowest-seeded teams are in action on Wednesday, March 12. Teams seeded 5-10 begin tournament play on Thursday, March 13. And the league’s top-four-seeded teams receive a double-bye before hitting the court on Friday, March 14.

Semifinal games take place Saturday, March 15. And the SEC Tournament Championship Game tips off Sunday, March 16 at 3:15 p.m. ET (ESPN).

The winner of the SEC Tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

For more information about the 2014 SEC Tournament and the events and activities surrounding it, visit http://1tn.co/1dnncQ6

The Tennessee men’s basketball game against Vanderbilt Saturday, March 1, will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

The initial network designation had been either ESPN or ESPN2, but it was confirmed Thursday that the game will be shown on ESPN2.

Tipoff at Thompson-Boling Arena is set for noon ET, and Vols legend Dale Ellis (1980-83) will have his No. 14 jersey retired during a pregame ceremony.

For the most up-to-date information about the Tennessee basketball program, visit UTsports.com/basketball and follow @Vol_Hoops on Twitter and Instagram.

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