GAME NOTES: The Tennessee Volunteers will continue their season-long four-game homestand on Monday night when they welcome the Virginia Cavaliers to Thompson-Boling Arena for a non-conference clash.
Virginia has been impressive this season, running out to a 9-3 record, although in its only previous true road game it fell victim to Green Bay, 75-72 on Dec. 7. Since that loss, the Cavaliers have won back-to-back games over Northern Iowa (57-43) and most recently versus Norfolk State on Dec. 23 (66-56).
Tennessee had lost two straight to Wichita State (84-63) and NC State (65-58) before getting back on the winning track in a Dec. 23 matchup with Morehead State with an 82-67 triumph. The Vols are now 7-4 on the campaign, which includes a 5-1 mark at Thompson-Boling Arena.
In regards to the all-time series, Virginia has won eight of 12 meetings, including a 46-38 triumph on Dec. 5, 2012 in Charlottesville.
Not only did Virginia shoot a solid 45 percent from the field in its latest game and had a busy, effective night from the foul line (27-of-39), it played outstanding defense, holding Norfolk State to 36.4 percent shooting and 56 points, giving it nine games this season holding its opponents to less than 60 points. Leading the way in the triumph was Justin Anderson with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Joe Harris was right on his heels with 12 points and seven boards.
The key to the Cavaliers' success this season has undoubtedly been their stout defense, as they rank third nationally in allowing just 54.2 ppg, which has helped mask a rather pedestrian offensive attack (.457 FG percentage, 65.8 ppg). Another key to their success has been their performance on the glass, as they outrebound opponents by 9.4 boards per contest. Harris leads the team with 11.4 ppg on 51.1 percent from the field. Malcolm Brogdon nets 10.3 ppg, while Anderson (9.2 ppg) and Anthony Gill (9.0 ppg) have also been solid.
The Vols cruised to a 15-point win in their most recent contest by outshooting Morehead State from the field, 52.5 percent to 41 percent, and holding a convincing 49-28 advantage in the rebounding battle, which helped make up for a lackluster showing at the foul line (12-of-23) and a game-high 15 turnovers. Josh Richardson paced the squad with 19 points on 8-of-13 from the field. Jeronne Maymon scored 16 points, Jarnell Stokes added 13 points and Derek Reese tallied a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. In fact, all four of the team's top scorers hauled in at least eight boards in the victory.
Although Tennessee actually shoots a lower percentage from the field (.440) than its opponents (.443), it still owns a +8.9 scoring margin thanks largely to its impressive advantages in both the rebounding (+8.6) and turnover (+2.4) departments. Jordan McRae has established himself as one of the SEC's premiere scorers, netting 18.7 ppg. Stokes (13.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and Maymon (11.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) make up one of the most physically imposing forward duos in the nation, and each shoots at greater than 48 percent efficiency.
Virginia's defensive pressure will likely hold the hot-and-cold shooting Vols to less than their season average in points, but the big question is whether or not the Cavs can score enough to capture the victory. With Virginia still inexperienced on the road, expect Tennessee to edge this one out.
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