PREVIEW: No. 24 Tennessee vs. No. 13 LSU
Rick Barnes and his staff have guided the Volunteers to a 14-5 record in regular-season rematch games since 2018,
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The 24th-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball team is back at Thompson-Boling Arena for its first home Saturday SEC game of the season, taking on No. 13 LSU for the second time in two weeks. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. ET.
Tennessee (12-5, 3-3 SEC) enters Saturday’s game coming off of its first SEC road win of the season, taking down in-state foe Vanderbilt on Tuesday, 68-60. Santiago Vescovi led the Vols in scoring with 14 points, also grabbing six rebounds. Uros Plavsic, who was inserted into the starting lineup for the third time this season, scored a season-high 13 points and had seven rebounds in a season-high 21 minutes.
Saturday marks the second meeting between Tennessee and LSU this season, with the Tigers winning the first matchup in Baton Rouge on Jan. 8. Since 2018, Rick Barnes and his staff have guided the Volunteers to a 14-5 record in regular-season rematch games (SEC Tournament games not included).
Up next, Tennessee returns to Thompson-Boling Arena for a second straight home game on Wednesday against Florida. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
• Tennessee leads the all-time series with LSU, 65-50, dating to 1933.
• The Vols hold a 31-18 edge when the series is contested in Knoxville.
• Tennessee is a perfect 9-0 at home this season and is riding a 10-game win streak at Thompson-Boling Arena dating to last season.
• LSU and Tennessee boast the nation’s No. 1- and No. 5-rated KenPom defensive efficiencies, respectively.
• In three career games vs. LSU, Santiago Vescovi is shooting .500 (12-for-24) from 3-point range and averaging 15.0 points.
• The Vols are forcing an average of 19.0 turnovers per game during SEC play. The next-closest SEC team (LSU) forces 16.8 per game.
LAYUP LINES - TEAM
• In 2017-18, Tennessee owned a 12-5 (3-3) record six games into SEC play—identical to where this year’s team stands currently. Those 2017-18 Vols went on to post a 13-5 league finish en route to the SEC Championship.
• Saturday marks Tennessee’s seventh game this season against an AP top-25 opponent. The Vols are 2-4 vs. top-25 foes thus far.
• According to KenPom, the Vols rank fifth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 88.5 points per 100 possessions.
• The Vols rank among the Division I top 20 in steals per game (10.5, 7th), turnover margin (+5.6, 7th) and assists per game (16.9, 20th).
• Tennessee has pulled down 10 or more offensive rebounds in each of its last 10 games.
• In each of UT’s three SEC wins, the Vols have forced more than 20 turnovers.
• 42 percent of Tennessee’s points this season have been scored by first-year Vols (532 of 1276).
LAYUP LINES - PLAYERS
• Santiago Vescovi has increased his team-leading 14.0 ppg scoring average to 15.3 ppg in SEC play.
• Vescovi’s 3.17 3-point makes per game during SEC play lead the league.
• Josiah-Jordan James played just 3:57 at Vanderbilt Tuesday before leaving the game due to injury. His status for Saturday is uncertain.
• Kennedy Chandler’s 2.44 steals per game lead all Division I true freshmen. And his 4.9 assists per game rank third among true freshmen nationally.
• Chandler’s 3.4 steals per game during SEC play lead the league.
• The SEC record for career games played is 152, held by Kentucky’s Darius Miller (2008-12). John Fulkerson is closing in, having now appeared in a Tennessee-record 147 career games.
• Fulkerson also is just six points shy of 1,000 for his career.
• For the first time this season, LSU (15-3, 3-3 SEC) is coming off of two consecutive losses. The Tigers fell at home to Arkansas last Saturday before losing again at Alabama on Wednesday.
• Including Saturday’s game in Knoxville, each of LSU’s first seven games have come against teams ranked in the top seven of the SEC Preseason Media Poll.
• Saturday’s game is a matchup of two of the nation’s top five rated defenses in adjusted efficiency, according to KenPom. LSU’s defense ranks No. 1, allowing just 81.3 points per 100 possessions, while Tennessee is No. 5 with a 88.5 mark.
• The Tigers’ leading scorer is sophomore forward Tari Eason, a transfer from Cincinnati. Averaging 16.0 points per game, Eason currently ranks sixth in the SEC in scoring. Eason led the Tigers with 24 points and 12 rebounds during Tennessee and LSU’s first meeting on Jan. 8 in Baton Rouge.
• LSU has played its last three games without starting point guard and third-leading scorer Xavier Pinson, who was injured in the first meeting between the Tigers and Vols. Before getting injured, Pinson started all 15 of LSU’s games and was averaging 10.9 points and 4.6 assists in 27 minutes per game.
• LSU was also without senior forward Darius Days, a Preseason First Team All-SEC selection, for the majority of Wednesday’s loss at Alabama. Days exited the game due to injury late in the first half and did not return. Days is the Tigers’ second-leading scorer (13.5 ppg) and leading rebounder (7.3 rpg).
LAST MEETING WITH LSU
• The 18th-ranked Tennessee basketball team rallied in the second half, but eventually fell on the road to No. 21 LSU on Jan. 8, 2022, 79-67.
• Freshman guard Kennedy Chandler led Tennessee with 19 points. Junior guard Santiago Vescovi added 14, while junior forward Uros Plavsic had a season-high 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting along with seven rebounds off the bench.
• Chandler scored 14 of his points in the first half on 5-for-7 shooting.
• Sophomore Tari Eason led the way for LSU with 24 points. Second-chance points played a major role in the game, as LSU outscored Tennessee, 18-5.
• After holding a seven-point lead at halftime, LSU was hot out of the gates in the second half, exploding for a 20-7 run that extended its lead to 20 points at 62-42.
• Refusing to go away quietly, Tennessee responded by gradually chipping away at the Tigers’ lead, cutting it down to as few as five points at 71-66 on a Vescovi 3-pointer with three minutes remaining.
• Following Vescovi’s three, two straight fast-break layups from LSU guard Brandon Murray and Eason quickly pushed the Tigers’ lead back to nine points, paving the way for LSU’s 12-point win.
• After controlling the majority of the opening period, LSU took a 42-35 lead into the halftime break. The Tigers led for 11:20 of the first half, pulling in front by as many as 10. LSU’s 42 first-half points were Tennessee’s most given up to an opponent this season.
MEMORABLE VOL PERFORMANCES AGAINST LSU
• Knoxville native Doug Roth blocked a school-record six shots vs. LSU on Jan. 11, 1989, lifting UT to a 100-96 win over the Tigers in Knoxville.
• Anthony Richardson went 14-for-14 from the free-throw line, the best charity-stripe performance in school history, at LSU on Jan. 12, 1985. But the Vols fell that day by a score of 75-65.
• Ron Widby set a UT single-game scoring record, (which stood for 20 years) against LSU on March 4, 1967, scoring 50 points on 19-of-39 shooting (both also single-game records) and 12-of-14 from the charity strip. UT won 87-60 in Knoxville.
• After arriving in the United States and joining the team just seven days prior to the game, guard Santiago Vescovi started and scored 18 points on six 3-pointers, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists as the Vols fell to LSU in Knoxville on Jan. 4, 2020.
SECOND TIME’S A CHARM
• Since 2018, Rick Barnes and his staff have guided the Volunteers to a 14-5 record in regular-season rematch games (SEC Tournament games not included).
SETBACKS ALL QUALITY LOSSES
• Four of the five teams that have beaten Tennessee this season are ranked in this week’s AP Top 25. The fifth, Alabama, is among the top unranked vote-getters and just logged a top-15 win on Wednesday.
• Those five teams’ average NET rating is 12.0
• Among the teams that have beaten UT, the worst current NET rating is No. 21 (Alabama).
VOLS SEVENTH NATIONALLY IN STEALS
• Tennessee is logging steals at its highest rate of the Barnes era, averaging 10.5 per game. That ranks seventh among Division I teams.
• Through Barnes’ first six seasons on Rocky Top, Tennessee averaged just 6.0 steals per game. And UT’s highest per-game average during that span was 7.3 steals per game last season (with two first-round NBA Draft picks manning the wings).
KC & ZIGGY SMOOTH CRIMINALS
• Tennessee has a pair of true freshman guards who rank among KenPom’s national top 20 in steal percentage.
• Zakai Zeigler ranks 11th nationally, logging a steal on 4.92 percent of opponents’ possessions while he is on the floor. Kennedy Chandler ranks 20th with a steal percentage of 4.64.
• Chandler ranks second in the SEC and 11th among all Division I players with 2.44 steals per game. His 39 total steals rank 12th nationally.
• During SEC play, Chandler and Zeigler account for 49.2 percent of Tennessee’s total steals (32 of 65).
UROS DOUBLING OUTPUT IN SEC PLAY
• Junior big man Uros Plavsic entered this season averaging 1.9 points and 5.9 minutes per game.
• Thanks to earning an enhanced role during the first six games of SEC play, Plavsic is now averaging career-bests in minutes (11.9 mpg), scoring (4.2 ppg), rebounding (3.1 rpg) and field-goal percentage (.596).
• And his 53 rebounds through 17 games are more than his total through his first two seasons (32).
GAMES MPG PPG RPG
Pre-conference games (11) 9.9 3.0 1.9
SEC games (6) 15.7 6.5 5.3
HUNTLEY-HATFIELD EARNS MORE BURN
• Through more consistent and improved daily practice output, true freshman forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield has earned a significant increase in minutes over Tennessee’s last two games.
• Huntley-Hatfield logged 10 and 13 minutes off the bench at Kentucky and Vanderbilt, respectively.
• At Rupp Arena, Huntley-Hatfield managed 11 points in just 10 second-half minutes.
• At Vanderbilt, Huntley-Hatfield was the first man off the bench, and he played 10 first-half minutes.
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