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Vols host Bama, eye best start since 2000-01

A win would give Tennessee a three-game win streak in its series vs. Alabama
Basketball Vols moves up in AP ranking.
Basketball Vols moves up in AP ranking.(Vol Hoops)
Published: Jan. 2, 2021 at 6:02 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The seventh-ranked Tennessee basketball team returns home for the first of two consecutive contests, when it takes on Alabama on Saturday night.

Last time out, Tennessee dominated #12 Missouri to open SEC play, to the tune of a 73-53 scoreline. UT was led by sophomore Santiago Vescovi who poured in a game-high 15 points and senior Yves Pons who put together an all-around performance tallying 13 points, six rebounds, a season-high four blocks and a pair of steals. Pons also eclipsed 100 career blocks on Wednesday night and is just six blocks away from breaking into the top-15 on UT’s career blocks list.A victory on Saturday would give Tennessee an 8-0 record, marking its best start since the 2000-01 squad opened the year with a 9-0 ledger.

A win would also leave head coach Rick Barnes just two wins shy of tying Phog Allen and Don Haskins for 20th on the all-time Division I wins list.Up next, the Vols will take on Arkansas for a Wednesday night home matchup. Tipoff from Thompson-Boling Arena is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

THE SERIES• Tennessee trails the all-time series with Alabama, 70-79, dating to 1914.• When the series is contested in Knoxville, UT owns a 47-22 edge.• The Vols won last season’s lone meeting on Feb. 4, 2020, by a score of 69-68 at Coleman Coliseum.• Rick Barnes was an assistant coach at Alabama during the 1985-86 season.• Tennessee was set to face Alabama in the 2020 SEC Tournament in Nashville on March 12 when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the 2019-20 season to a screeching halt.

A WIN WOULD • Give Tennessee a three-game win streak in its series vs. Alabama.• Leave Rick Barnes two wins shy of tying Phog Allen and Don Haskins for 20th on the all-time Division I wins list.

LAYUP LINES• Tennessee has matched the 7-0 start of its 2010-11 team. A win over Alabama would give the Vols their best start since opening the 2000-01 season 9-0.• Tennessee’s 20-point win at 12th-ranked Missouri Wednesday (73-53) stands as UT’s largest margin of victory against a top-25 opponent on the road in program history.• Tennessee has won 79 percent of its games as a ranked team during the Rick Barnes era (62-17).• This week marks Tennessee’s 23rd appearance in the AP top 10 under head coach Rick Barnes .• The Vols have shot 50 percent or better in each of their last four games.• Tennessee has scored 96 more points in the paint than its opponents this season (+13.7 ppg).• The Vols have won each of their last five games by 20 or more points.

DEFENSE WINS• Tennessee leads the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing just 52.7 points per game.• According to KenPom, the Vols rank second nationally (trailing only Texas Tech) in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 85.6 points per 100 possessions so far this season. College teams average close to 70 possessions per game.• The Vols are forcing 18.1 turnovers per game while converting those turnovers into 20.3 points per game. Tennessee’s turnover margin stands at +7.4 (eighth nationally).• Over its last four games, Tennessee is scoring an average of 23.3 points off turnovers.• Reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons has 84 blocks in his last 38 games.• Only once this season has a team made at least five consecutive field goal attempts against the Vols (Cincinnati made five).

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