The 13th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers have thrived off stellar defense this season, and they will try to keep it up Sunday when they host Alcorn State in Knoxville, Tenn.
The Vols (6-1) are coming off a 76-40 win over McNeese State on Wednesday night. They have won five consecutive games and have held four opponents to 50 points or less during that stretch.
While offense can come and go for a team on a nightly basis, defense is something that should be consistent.
“You can always impact the game,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “You always can be doing your job — the details, creating something. Defensively, you should never have an off night. Ever.
“That’s just mental toughness and paying attention to a scouting report coming in.”
In the win over McNeese State, the Vols forced 24 turnovers and blocked eight shots, including five blocks by Jonas Aidoo.
Tennessee has forced 141 turnovers on the season and recorded 30 blocks. Opponents are shooting just 35.4 percent from the field against the Vols and have made a total of 35 3-pointers. McNeese State was 2-for-17 from 3-point range against the Volunteers.
Opposing teams have made just 20.4 percent of their 3-point shots against Tennessee.
Alcorn State enters this game looking to bounce back after nearly pulling off an impressive comeback in an 80-72 loss to Grand Canyon on Tuesday night.
The Braves (3-5) trailed by 30 before tying the score at 63-63. Byron Joshua scored 30 in the loss. Joshua is tied for the team lead in scoring average (11.6) with Dominic Brewton.
Alcorn State has lost its past two and is facing an SEC opponent for the second time this season. On Nov. 7, the Braves lost 73-58 to Ole Miss.
The game against Tennessee marks the start of five consecutive games on the road for the Braves through the end of the calendar year. That stretch precedes the start of the Southwestern Conference play. Their best win this season came at Wichita State, 66-57.
“If we’re locked in and we’re competing and we’re playing hard, I think we have a chance to win against every team on our schedule,” Alcorn State coach Landon Bussie said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, it just matters what we do.”
As for the Volunteers, Josiah-Jordan James leads the team at 13.7 points per game. He is one of four players in double figures, along with Santiago Vescovi (12.0), Julian Phillips (10.9) and Tyreke Key (10.7). Vescovi scored 16 points in Wednesday’s win, sinking four 3-pointers, giving him nine in the past two games
The Volunteers are shooting 40 percent from the floor as a team and are knocking down nine 3-pointers per game.
Defensively, as well as Tennessee has played, Barnes expects his team to be even better going forward.
“The defensive mentality that we’ve had, we still have to get better,” Barnes said. “I will tell you that. I could tell you 18 offensive rebounds (against McNeese State) means there were 18 possessions where we didn’t finish it. So we got to obviously clean that up.”
–Field Level Media