No. 6 Tennessee and LSU will both attempt to keep their offenses rolling following high-scoring wins as they prepare for a meeting in Knoxville, Tenn., on Wednesday.
The Volunteers (16-5, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) defeated then-No. 10 Kentucky 103-92 on the road last Saturday, while the Tigers (12-9, 4-4) beat Arkansas 95-74 at home. Both Tennessee and LSU put together their highest-scoring SEC games of the season in their respective victories.
Both squads find themselves in the top half of the conference when it comes to putting the ball in the hoop, with the Volunteers ranking fifth in points per game at 79.6 and the Tigers in sixth (77.5).
“I knew it was going to be a high-possession game, I knew that. There was no question,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said about the clash with the Wildcats. “Each game takes on its own personality, and the last two games that we played with Vanderbilt and South Carolina were more of lower-possession games.
“But we knew coming in here it would be an up-and-down, lot of shots.”
Four days earlier, the Volunteers had scored just 59 points in a four-point loss against the Gamecocks. Barnes was pleased with how his team adjusted for the meeting with Kentucky.
“We wanted to do what we do — get down the floor as quickly as we can,” Barnes said. “We want to shoot it, and again we made shots early.”
A good portion of Tennessee’s offense has come from its three fifth-year starters, Dalton Knecht, Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James.
“The older guys, they have a lot of trust in each other,” Barnes said. “A lot of confidence in each other. And those guys are very real with each other.”
Tennessee is one of three teams with just two SEC losses, one behind conference-leading Alabama.
Even though LSU had lost three straight and four of its past five before defeating Arkansas, only the top four teams in the SEC have fewer conference losses than the Tigers.
“I thought it was just a really unselfish, disciplined performance,” LSU coach Matt McMahon said of the showing against the Razorbacks. “It’s a lot of fun to watch us play that way.”
McMahon inserted Trae Hannibal into the starting lineup in place of Jalen Cook, and he played the two point guards together at times.
LSU finished with 17 assists on 29 made field goals, its most helpers in a league game this season.
“Since December, we’ve been playing a lot faster and our spacing is a lot better,” McMahon said. “So when we move the ball and execute, we have really good players and when they play well, it allows us to score 95 points.”
The Tigers shot 54.7 percent from the floor and 52.2 percent from 3-point range.
McMahon knows his team will need to play another complete game if it wants to upset Tennessee.
“On the defensive end, we were really locked in to the game plan and the things we needed to do (against Arkansas),” McMahon said.
–Field Level Media
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