Tennessee (4-2) at Virginia (6-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, December 5, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: John Paul Jones Arena (14,593) -- Charlottesville, Virginia. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Tennessee 2-0, Virginia 5-1. Away Record: Tennessee 0-1, Virginia 1-1. Neutral Record: Tennessee 2-1, Virginia 0-0. Conference Record: Tennessee 0-0, Virginia 0-0. Series Record: Virginia leads, 7-4.
GAME NOTES: The Virginia Cavaliers put a five-game win streak on the line on Wednesday night, as the take on the Tennessee Volunteers in non-conference action at John Paul Jones Arena.
Tony Bennett's squad is off to a fast start this year, sitting at 6-2 overall. The team dropped two of its first three games, but hasn't lost since a Nov. 13 setback to Delaware (59-53). The marquee victory during the current win streak came on Nov. 28 at Wisconsin (60-54) in ACC/Big Ten Challenge action. The Cavaliers followed that up with a 67-51 win over Green Bay this past weekend to jumpstart their current four-game homestand.
Cuonzo Martin's second season in Knoxville has been met with mixed reviews to this point, as the Volunteers enter with a 4-2 record. The team's two setbacks have come against the only big conference action Tennessee has faced thus far, falling to Oklahoma State (62-45) and most recently, at Georgetown (37-36).
This marks the 12th meeting all-time between these two teams and the first since the 2007 NCAA Tournament, a game won by Tennessee, 77-74. The Cavaliers hold a 7-4 series advantage and are 4-1 against the Vols in Charlottesville.
It was an ugly game for both sides, as neither Tennessee nor Georgetown scored over the final four+ minutes of the game. Unfortunately for the Volunteers, they came out on the losing end of a 37-36 decision. Skylar McBee and Trae Golden led the way offensively with eight points apiece. UT's 36 points represented the second-lowest in the shot-clock era and lowest since a mere 35 points in a loss to Auburn on Jan. 15, 1997 (43-35).
The lack of offensive firepower has been a reason for concern this season in the early going for Tennessee. The Volunteers are managing a modest 65.3 ppg, shooting .444 from the floor. Still, the team does have a +6.5 scoring margin and is enjoying a +5.9 rebounding margin thus far. Jarnell Stokes has been the top performer for the Vols, converting 57.7 percent of his shots, while leading the team in both scoring (13.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.7 rpg). Golden is the only other Volunteer averaging double-digit points (11.7 ppg) and is the team's primary distributor (5.0 apg).
Bennett has always enforced defensive discipline and this year is no different in Charlottesville. Virginia ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense (52.9 ppg) and 36th in field-goal percentage defense (.369). The Cavs are enjoying a +12.0 scoring margin, led by the sharp-shooting of guard Joe Harris. The 6- foot-6 junior is shooting .460 from the floor overall, .463 from behind the arc (19-of-41) and leads Virginia with 16.5 ppg. Junior forward Akil Mitchell provides the frontcourt balance with his dominant play, averaging a near double-double with 12.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
It was once again defensive play that led the Cavs to victory last time out, holding the Phoenix to just 51 points, on .340 shooting. Harris and Mitchell handled the majority of the offensive workload, netting 20 points apiece. Mitchell finished just shy of a double-double with nine rebounds and was aided on the glass by Darion Atkins, who finished with a team-high 11 boards.
Tennessee has the personnel to remain competitive with just about any team out there, but winning in Charlottesville won't be easy. This is sure to be a defensive struggle and in such games it is never wise to go against a Bennett coached team.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia 61, Tennessee 52
12/05 10:33:26 ET