Tennessee plays host to Georgia for the first time since 2014 on Saturday (4 p.m. ET, ESPNU), taking aim at its fifth win over its last six games.
1 | KEY RESERVES
Still utilizing a 10-man rotation after 24 games this season, Tennessee's success continues to be predicated on production from the bench. That notion held true on Wednesday night when the Vols got 21 points from the bench en route to a 75-66 victory over Ole Miss. Leading that charge was reserve guard Lamonte Turner, who finished with nine points and a team-high plus-minus rating of plus-19. In fact, Lew Evans -- one of the Vols' top contributors off the bench -- stands as UT's season-long leader in plus-minus rating per 40 minutes at plus-12.44.
On the year Tennessee is averaging 29.3 bench points per game and has logged 24 instances of a bench player scoring 10 or more points.
2 | VOLS PREPARE FOR DAWGS' DYNAMIC DUO
Georgia visits Knoxville on Saturday boasting one of the SEC's top scoring duos in senior guard J.J. Frazier and junior forward Yante Maten. Maten leads the team and ranks third in the conference in scoring at 19.7 ppg, doing so with a highly-efficient .529 shooting percentage. Meanwhile, Frazier -- who scored a game-high 28 points against the Vols last year -- is averaging 16.0 ppg.
Head coach Rick Barnes shared his impressions of the Georgia pair during Friday's media availability: "Last year J.J. Frazier was incredible," Barnes recalled. "He just single-handedly took the game over. It was really just an incredible performance. So we’re certainly aware of that and know that he can do that against anybody. And Maten is a guy that is just so efficient around the basket. He catches the ball really well, knows how to get his angles. They know how to play off those guys. They understand what they’re looking for, and to me, they’re a highly efficient team."
3 | JB'S INCREASING ROLE
Tennessee has shown an increased reliance on guard Jordan Bowden, demonstrated by the fact he has logged 30-plus minutes in each of the last four games. Recently tasked with guarding the opposition's top offensive player, Bowden got it done on the offensive end in Wednesday's win, scoring 14 points and burying a key 3-pointer that put UT up five with 54 seconds remaining. "At this point, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he’s probably been the biggest surprise of all the freshmen that we signed, given the fact that he was one of the last guys that we signed," head coach Rick Barnes said Friday. "He came in and he’s really become a two-way player -- someone that we can count on on the defensive end as well as on the offensive end. But it’s really important for him that he keeps improving."
4 | 50-YEAR REUNION FOR 1967 VOLS
The University of Tennessee is proud to welcome its 1966-67 and 1976-77 SEC Championship teams back to Rocky Top this weekend to celebrate the 50th and 40th anniversaries, respectively, of their league titles. Members of those teams will be recognized on the court Saturday at halftime.
Tennessee basketball enjoyed success in the late 1930s and mid-40s, winning SEC titles in tournament play in 1936, 1941 and 1943. But the arrival of head coach Ray Mears in 1962 ushered in an even more prolific era of achievement on the hardwood. The 1966-67 squad—led by All-American Ron Widby and the Vols’ first 7-foot center, Tom Boerwinkle—rolled through SEC round robin play with a 14-3 league record heading into the final conference contest at Mississippi State. A victory meant the title, and it took three overtimes before the Vols finally prevailed, 78-76, over a stubborn Bulldogs squad. The heroics belonged to Widby, who scored 10 of his game-high 35 points in the overtime periods before two free throws by Bill Justus secured the victory with seven seconds left. Boerwinkle, who played the entire game, led the Vols with 15 rebounds on a night that established Tennessee as a perennial contender for SEC basketball championships.
That 1967 team also earned the program’s first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament, where the Vols fell to Dayton in the regional semifinal. That team also own the school record for scoring defense, allowing only 54.0 points per game.
5 | TENNESSEE’S 1977 TITLE TEAM ALSO RETURNS
A decade later, with “The Ernie and Bernie Show” at its apex and 12,700 screaming fans making Stokely Athletics Center one of the toughest venues in college basketball, the 1976-77 Volunteers were undefeated at home and ran off 12 straight victories en route to the 1977 SEC title. With Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King combining to average nearly 49 points per game, and unheralded Mike Jackson and Reggie Johnson providing significant additional firepower, the Vols averaged 85.7 points per game. Tennessee captured the SEC championship with a school conference-win record of 16-2, including a sweep of rival Kentucky.
That magical season also ended in the NCAA Tournament, where UT fell to a Syracuse squad led by a rookie head coach named Jim Boeheim.
The loss closed the curtain on the three-year Ernie & Bernie era—which produced 61 Tennessee triumphs—and it also marked the final game of Mears' storied coaching career.