Memphis (9-3) at Tennessee (8-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, January 4, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Thompson-Boling Arena (21,000) -- Knoxville, Tennessee. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Memphis 8-1, Tennessee 6-0. Away Record: Memphis 1-2, Tennessee 0-2. Neutral Record: Memphis 0-0, Tennessee 2-1. Conference Record: Memphis 0-0, Tennessee 0-0. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 14-10.
GAME NOTES: Intrastate rivals clash at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Friday night, as the Tennessee Volunteers play host to the Memphis Tigers in non-conference action.
Memphis started the season ranked in the Top-25, but following back-to-back losses to VCU (78-65) and Minnesota (84-75) in the Battle 4 Atlantis event in mid-November it promptly fell from the ranks. Since then however, the Tigers have claimed seven of their last eight matchups to move to 9-3, most recently downing Loyola-Maryland on Dec. 30, 78-64. They've played the last seven contests at home, and this will mark their first true road test of the year.
Tennessee has also gotten off to a stellar start, siting with an 8-3 record, including a perfect 6-0 mark at home. After dropping consecutive road games at Georgetown (37-36) and Virginia (46-38) a few weeks back, the Vols ripped off four victories in a row. After finding themselves down at the half against Xavier on Dec. 29, they were able to come back to capture a 51-47 win to continue their streak.
Memphis has won two straight in the series over Tennessee, including a triumph at home last January (69-51), but the Vols still hold a 14-10 advantage all- time.
The Tigers have had very little problem scoring points this season, as they drain better than 47 percent of their field goal attempts for 74.0 ppg. They had a relatively modest night by their lofty standards against Loyola the last time out, making 22-of-49 shots from the field (.449), but it was able to pull away for the 14-point win thanks in large part to a 29-of-41 effort from the free throw line. Joe Johnson was spectacular in the win, going 5-of-6 from the field and 10-of-12 from the stripe for 22 points while also dishing out seven assists. Shaq Goodwin added 15 points, and Geron Johnson chipped in 10 points and three blocks. Jackson paces Memphis on the season with 13.2 ppg and 4.4 apg, and at 53.7 percent field goal shooting, he's one of the most efficient guards in the nation. Johnson (10.6 ppg) and Adonis Thomas (10.1 ppg) are also strong scorers, and Tarik Black (10.9 ppg) has missed the past two games with a sore groin and remains questionable for Friday's tilt.
The Vols have been no where near as effective at the offensive end of the floor, shooting 42.2 percent from the field for just 63.1 ppg, but they have experienced great success behind the SEC's second-ranked scoring defense (56.4 ppg). It was the same old story in the bout with Xavier, as they shot only 38.8 percent from the floor but were able to hold on for the four-point win by forcing the Musketeers into more turnovers (19) than they had field goals (18). Josh Richardson was the only player to score in double figures for the Vols in the defensive struggle, netting 12 points while adding seven rebounds and two blocks for good measure. Running the point for Tennessee is Trae Golden, who scores 12.5 ppg and dishes out 4.5 apg, but his .371 field goal percentage leaves much to be desired. Jarnell Stokes (11.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg) has been much more efficient, draining an impressive 57.5 percent of his shots overall, while Jordan McRae adds 10.3 ppg.
If Black is able to suit up, Memphis has a legitimate shot at toppling Tennessee, but his status remains up in the air. Regardless, the Vols have been impressive in Knoxville, and their relentless style of defense will cause fits for the Tigers all night, giving UT the edge it needs to move to 9-3.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 67, Memphis 65
01/04 10:32:01 ET