Xavier (7-4) at Tennessee (7-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 29, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) -- Knoxville, Tennessee. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Xavier 4-2, Tennessee 5-0. Away Record: Xavier 1-0, Tennessee 0-2. Neutral Record: Xavier 2-2, Tennessee 2-1. Conference Record: Xavier 0-0, Tennessee 0-0. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 10-4.
GAME NOTES: The Xavier Musketeers will look to turn things around on Saturday when they visit the Tennessee Volunteers for a non-conference duel at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Chris Mack's Musketeers dropped their second straight contest on Dec. 22 as they suffered a heartbreaking 56-55 setback to Wofford. The back-to-back losses gives Xavier a 7-4 record entering Saturday after a promising 6-1 start. The team has played just one true road game and managed to defeat Purdue, 63-57, to begin December. The Musketeers are decent on the offensive end with an average of 67.2 points per game on 48.5 percent field goal shooting, but they are even better on the defensive end as their opponents are managing just 61.8 ppg with a .402 field goal percentage.
Tennessee earned its third consecutive victory on Dec. 21 by coasting to a 66-52 decision over Western Illinois. The win also improved the Volunteers' record at Thompson-Boling Arena to 5-0 on the season, which includes a nine- point triumph over the Wichita State Shockers, who have yet to be defeated by another program. Coach Cuonzo Martin is 3-0 in his career against current members of the Atlantic 10 including his previous stint at Missouri State. Martin's team can help him stay perfect against the A-10 by continuing its stifling defensive performance that has left its opposition with a mere average of 57.3 ppg on 39 percent shooting from the floor. Tennessee is outplaying its competition by scoring 64.3 ppg with a .425 field goal percentage.
This will be the 15th meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood. Tennessee holds a sizeable 10-4 all-time series lead after its 82-75 win over the Musketeers in the last encounter on Dec. 22, 2007.
Xavier was unable to come out of its bout with Wofford on top despite Travis Taylor's 20-point and 11-rebound performance. It was the second consecutive double-double for the senior forward, who is producing 11.2 points and a team- best 7.2 rebounds per game. The Musketeers hurt themselves by converting just 8-of-16 attempts at the free throw line, which made a huge difference in the one-point loss. Freshman point guard Semaj Christon continued his stellar rookie campaign with 10 points, eight assists, and three steals. Christon has been very productive through his first 10 games of collegiate basketball with team-high averages of 14.2 points and 5.5 assists per game. Dee Davis (10.8 ppg) and Justin Martin (10.3 ppg) are both carrying double-digit scoring averages to Knoxville as well.
The Volunteers earned their 300th all-time win at Thompson-Boling Arena, where they are 300-104 since the 1987-88 season, by outscoring Western Carolina 30-8 at the free throw line to overcome a poor 17-of-47 shooting display from the floor. Junior guard Jordan McRae tallied a team-high 14 points to spearhead a team-effort that saw three others players score in double figures. McRae's outing brought his scoring average to 11.9 ppg. Jarnell Stokes just missed a double-double by scoring 12 points and grabbing nine boards, while Josh Richardson also netted 12 points. Kenny Hall chipped in nine points and powered Tennessee to a 41-27 advantage. Trae Golden, who paces the team with 13.2 ppg, added 10 versus the Catamounts. Stokes (11.9 ppg. 7.8 rpg) provides a tough interior asset for Martin to rely on.
Although the Musketeers are coming off a disappointing loss in a game they should have easily won at home, they cannot be counted out in this one despite being on the road. Xavier showed its inexperience against Wofford, but it has also exhibited its crop of talent on multiple occasions this season as well. Tennessee is a sound team defensively, but after being held under 40 points twice already this season, it is hardly a team that can be expected to take care of business with ease.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Xavier 64, Tennessee 60
12/29 10:31:18 ET