Tire Headquarters: No. 6 Tennessee at No. 9 Arizona

The sixth-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball team heads west for a Top 10 match this weekend and meets ninth-ranked Arizona in Tucson at 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday at the McKale Memorial Center.

Fans can watch Saturday’s game on ESPN2 and online or on any mobile device via WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN app or online at espn.com/watch. Kevin Fitzgerald (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (analyst) will have the call.

Fans can also hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp detail the action live on their local Vol Network affiliate.

Tennessee (9-1) picked up their second ranked win of the season and won their eighth straight game Sunday in New York by beating No. 13 Maryland 56-53. second grader Zakai Zeigler had a team-high 12 points and was named Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational Game MVP. Defensively, the Vols held Maryland 33 percent for the game, including 13 percent in the first half.

Saturday marks the return leg of a home-and-home series with Arizona that began last season in Knoxville when the 19th-ranked Vols defeated the No. 6 Wildcats 77-73. It’s also the second straight season that Tennessee has traveled to the Mountain Time Zone for a real road game against a Pac-12 opponent as the Vols won 69-54 in Colorado last December.

After Saturday’s top-10 showdown, Tennessee returns to Knoxville for one last non-conference home competition before the holidays and the start of SEC play, taking on country foe Austin Peay on Wednesday, December 21. Tipp-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on SEC Network+.

THE SERIES

• Tennessee leads its all-time streak with Arizona 4-1 from 1956.
• Last December, the Vols defeated sixth-placed Arizona 77-73 in Knoxville. See page 4 for a summary.
• Tennessee also defeated Arizona in their only previous game in Tucson on December 23, 1983. The Vols shot .556 (25 of 45) in this win.
• Vols Head Coach Rick Barnes owns a 2-8 career record against Arizona but is 34-24 all-time against current members of the Pac-12 conference.
• Tennessee’s assistant coach sophomore Justin Gainey was an assistant coach at Arizona from 2018-20.
• Tennessee sophomore Jahmai Mashacks his older brother, Kwesi Mashack, was a cornerback for the Arizona Football Program from 2014 to 2017.
• UT senior Uroš Plavšić returns to Arizona after spending the 2018-19 season as a redshirt in Arizona State at Tempe.

SCOUTING REPORT

• Tennessee has never recorded three wins against ranked teams before Christmas.
• UT’s bench gives the Vols 24.1 points per game, despite regularly understaffed rosters.
• Senior Guard Santiago Vescovi is five points shy of 1,000 for his career.
• In addition to leading the Vols in scoring by 11.6 ppg, Julian Phillips ranks third among all DI major conference freshmen nationally in offensive rebounding with a 2.8 per game.
• In just 10 games, Julian Phillips conceded 45 fouls – the team leads overall. Zakai Zeigler is not far behind and draws 39 fouls.
• Senior big man Uroš Plavšić averaged 9.0 ppg in UT’s last three games while shooting 12 of 14 (.857) from the field.
• As that home-and-home series draws to a close, Tennessee on Tuesday announced a new home-and-home series starring Big Ten star Illinois, set to begin in Knoxville next December.

DEFENSE TRAVEL

• Saturday’s showdown features KenPom’s #1 offense versus KenPom’s #1 defense.
• The Volunteers have the best adjusted Defense Efficiency in the country, according to Ken Pom, allowing just 81.3 points per 100 possessions.
• The Vols have held their opponents to 50 points or less seven times this season. Tennessee has now done so 27 times during the Barnes era (since 2015).
• Of 363 Division I teams, 341 are shooting 40 percent or better from the field this season. Tennessee has kept eight of its ten opponents under 33 percent shooting this season.
• Tennessee is not behind at halftime this season, outperforming their opponents in the first half by 34.1 ppg to 22.4 ppg (+11.7 ppg).
• Tennessee’s top scorer has averaged just 15.1 points so far this season. The high is 23 by KJ Simpson of Colorado.

ABOUT ARIZONA

• Arizona (9-1) enters Saturday after winning three games in a row – including an 89-75 win over No. 14 Indiana in Las Vegas last Saturday.
• The Wildcats have already recorded three wins against ranked opponents this season after beating No. 10 Creighton, No. 14 Indiana and No. 17 San Diego State – all on neutral places. Their only loss of the season came on December 1, 81-66 in Utah.
• Arizona leads all of Division I this season in attacking hits (92.0 ppg), field goal percentage (.547) and assists per game (21.5).
• Junior forward Azuolas Tubelis, a 2022 All-Pac-12 first-team selection, starts Saturday averaging 20.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
• Redshirt junior center Oumar Ballo, who averaged just 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season, averaged 18.1 points and 9.4 rebounds in 10 games this year while shooting .747 from the field.
• Tubelis was a first-team All Pac 12 pick last season, while junior guard Kerr Kriisa and junior guard Pelle Larson were second-team picks.
• Courtney Ramey, a senior guard in his fifth year from Texas, had an 18-point high in the Longhorns’ 52-51 win over Tennessee last season.
• Arizona has won 24 straight home games since the 2020-21 season, which is the nation’s fourth-longest active home winning streak.
• Tennessee Supreme Guard Santiago Vescovi has a history of playing with two players on Arizona’s roster. Vescovi played with Ballo at NBA Academy Latin America while he played with Kriisa at a Basketball Without Borders camp.
• Sophomore Warden in Tennessee Jahmai Mashacks Older brother Kwesi Mashack played cornerback for Arizona Football from 2014 to 2017.

LAST MEETING WITH ARIZONA

• In the words of ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes, Tennessee’s 77-73 triumph over No. 6 Arizona last year in Knoxville was a win that was “sustainable.” It was the first of four top 10 wins for the Vols last season. And Tennessee earned a No. 3 seed.
• Arizona entered the showdown on December 22, 2021 and boasted the No. 1 offense in Division I with 91.0 ppg, but the Vols became the first team all season to hold the Wildcats to fewer than 80 points .
• Tennessee forced Arizona turnovers on 22.7 percent of its holdings (17 overall). UT also kept the Wildcats under 1.0 points per possession (0.97 ppp).
• Arizona only scored 21 points in the first half.
• Vols Super Senior John Fulkerson Tie 13 fouls in the win. Azuolas Tubelis and eventual 2022 NBA draft pick Christian Koloko combined for nearly as many fouls (9) as points (10).
• Eventual NBA sixth overall draft pick Bennedict Mathurin led all scorers with 28 points for Arizona.

VOLS SEEK 24TH RANKING VICTORY UNDER BARNES

• Under Rick BarnesThe Vols have recorded 23 wins over AP ranked opponents, including 10 wins over top 10 teams.

TOP 10 TAKEDOWNS

• Tennessee have won each of their last five games against AP top 10 opponents. This is the nation’s longest active streak.
• The Vols downed No. 3 Kansas in November. Last season, UT teams beat places 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th.

VOLS’ NON-CONFERENCE PLAN WITH BIG TESTS AND POSSIBILITIES

• Tennessee’s post-season resume includes a crucial win over then-No. 3 Kansas and a triumph over then-No. 13 Maryland – both away from Knoxville.
• The Vols also have a Quad 2 win over Butler.
• Saturday’s showdown with Arizona offers a chance for a real Top 10 away win.
• And on Jan. 28, Tennessee hosts Texas as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

REBOUNDING KEY TO TENNESSEE’S EARLY SUCCESS THIS SEASON

• In the December 13 games, Tennessee leads the nation in offensive rebounds, retiring 15.6 per game.
• The Vols convert those offensive boards into 15.7 second chance points per game.
• UT’s rebound margin of +8.8 rpg ranks third in the SEC and 12th nationally.
• Three vols averaging at least 2.0 offensive rebounds per game: Julian Phillips (2.8 ORPG), Jonas Aidoo (2.2 orpg) and Tobe Awake (2.0 ORPG).
• A newcomer, Awaka has dropped 17 rebounds – nine of them on offense – in the last 30 minutes of play.
• The Vols had a high of 56 total rebounds in their win against Eastern Kentucky on December 7 of the Barnes era.
• Tennessee’s rebounding skills are even more impressive when you consider that the team’s lead rebounder, Josiah Jordan James (6.0 rpg), has played in only five of UT’s 10 games.

PHILLIPS DESTROYING THE GLASS

• Vols true newcomer Julian Phillips Sixth in the SEC in offensive rebounding at 2.8 per game. He ranks third among all Division I freshmen on major conference teams in offensive rebounds per game.

RANK PLAYER, TEAM ORPG MPG
1. Kyle Filipowski, Duke 2.92 27.3
2. Donovan Clingan, UConn 2.82 15.1
3. Julian PhillipsTennessee 2.80 26.6

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