The Texas Longhorns are coming off a second win over an SEC opponent with the 80-76 squeaker over Arkansas Wednesday night in the Erwin Center. The road to a perfect 3-0 against the SEC in non-conference play will be a much tougher task than the first two.
After playing games against the likes of Michigan State, Gonzaga and LSU on neutral courts, the young Longhorn (8-2) team will walk into their first hostile environment Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPN2. The opponent is the fast paced Tennessee Volunteers, who enter Saturday's game with a 9-2 record.
The Volunteers last took the court December 18 and beat Big 12 member Oklahoma State 79-77 in a game in which Tennessee snatched 21 offensive rebounds.
Tennessee lost both of its games in the NIT Season Tip-Off November 22-24. The Volunteers first loss of the season was to a very good Butler team 56-44. Two days later, North Carolina handed Tennessee a 101-87 loss.
The Vols have responded with five straight wins since the November 24 defeat including a heated 76-58 win over Memphis in an in-state rivalry game.
Junior combo guard Chris Lofton, who averages 21.4 points per game, leads Tennessee. Lofton is one of the better three-point shooters in college basketball hitting 48.9 percent from long range and will release the ball from anywhere inside of 30-feet.
Lofton receives help from a very good all-around senior Dane Bradshaw. The 6-foot-4 senior is part of a four-guard line-up and is the best distributor on the team. The only question regarding Bradshaw is a shoulder injury that required an MRI earlier in the week.
Texas and Tennessee met for the first of the two game series last year in Austin with the Volunteers handing the Longhorns a crushing 95-78 defeat on the heels of the 31-point loss to Duke.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
Texas shoots 44.7 percent from the field, 37.7 percent from the three-point line and 69.8 percent from the foul line.
Tennessee connects on 44.5 percent overall, 37.3 percent from three and 63.5 percent from the free throw line.
Texas holds their opponents to 39.7 percent to 43.4 percent by Tennessee.
The Longhorns have a +6.8 rebound differential and turn the ball over 12.5 times per game.
The Volunteers own a +2.6 rebound differential and commit 17.2 turnovers each time out.
Tennessee has attempted 276 three-pointers (25 per game) on the season and that is one the tops in the nation.
PG D.J. Augustin 5-11 freshman (13.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists)
SG A.J. Abrams 5-10 sophomore (16.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.3 steals)
SG Justin Mason 6-2 freshman (9.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists)
SF Kevin Durant 6-9 freshman (21.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1.6 steals)
PF Damion James 6-7 freshman (7.8 points, 7.3 rebounds)
Key reserves include 6-10 sophomore Connor Atchley (4.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks) and 6-10 freshman Matt Hill (3.7 points, 3.7 rebounds).
PG Jordan Howell 6-3 junior (3.1 points, 2.0 assists)
SG Chris Lofton 6-2 junior (21.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals)
SG JaJuan Smith 6-2 junior (13.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 steals)
SF Dane Bradshaw 6-4 senior (7.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.5 steals)
PF Duke Crews 6-8 freshman (9.9 points, 5.6 rebounds)
Key reserves include 6-9 freshman Wayne Chism (7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds), 6-2 freshman Ramar Smith (5.5 points 2.9 rebounds), 6-4 freshmen Josh Tabb (3.3 points, 2.6 rebounds) and 6-9 sophomore Ryan Childress (5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds).
KEYS TO THE GAME
Transition defense and keeping Tennessee off of the offensive glass as much as possible are two big factors. Texas is going to give some offensive rebounds, but it can't allow 21 like Oklahoma State did five days ago.
Shot selection is also going to be key. Tennessee will press and trap forcing tempo and the Longhorns must have good shot selection on the road. If Texas takes ill-advised shots that result in players out of position to rotate back in transition, it could be a long day.
Kevin Durant has to stay out of early foul trouble. Against Arkansas he was tentative to go after rebounds because he has begun a trend of picking up two fouls in the first 10 minutes of the game. That trend must stop Saturday.
Make Lofton settle for NBA range three-pointers. Look for Texas to continue to play the newly found 1-2-2 zone with Kevin Durant up top as long as Lofton handles the ball.