Feb. 14, 2014
@VOL_HOOPS REPORT: Tennessee Hits the Road Seeking Consistency
There are seven regular-season games remaining for the Tennessee basketball team (15-9, 6-5 SEC), and three of the Volunteers' next four contests take place on the road.
The Big Orange departed Friday for Columbia, Mo., where they will face second-year SEC member Missouri (17-7, 5-6 SEC) Saturday at 3 p.m. CT/4 p.m. ET at Mizzou Arena.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Much has been made of Tennessee's prowess in the month of February under third-year head coach Cuonzo Martin. He has led the Vols to a 15-5 mark in February, and that includes a 7-3 record on the road.
This will be UT's third all-time visit to Columbia and the Vols' first trip to Mizzou Arena since the Tigers joined the SEC.
The Vols have already posted road wins this season at LSU and Alabama.
A Volunteer victory Saturday afternoon would make Tennessee one of only three teams in the conference to log at least three road wins in league play, joining Florida (5-0) and Kentucky (4-2). Ole Miss could also join the three road-win club Saturday with a victory at Georgia.
Presented with another opportunity to pick up a win against another quality opponent - Mizzou is No. 43 in ESPN.com's latest RPI listing - Martin is looking for one thing out of his squad Saturday.
"Consistency," he said. "That's what it is for us... it's just consistency across the board. Taking care of the ball consistently, handling teams' press consistently, knocking down shots from the 3-point line consistently, scoring around the rim, making your free throws.
"So everything we do - do it with consistency from start to finish."
Missouri is one of only three SEC programs that has a winning record against Tennessee (Alabama and Kentucky are the others). But a win by UT Saturday would even the all-time series at 4-4.
It was Senior Day on Rocky Top when these squads met last season, and the Vols posted a thrilling 64-62 victory. Current UT starters Jordan McRae (15 points), Jarnell Stokes (13 points) and Josh Richardson (11 points) each scored in double figures in that triumph.
The Tigers have played five SEC home games this season, losing to Georgia and Kentucky while defeating Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas. Mizzou put together an impressive late-game rally to down the Razorbacks Thursday night in Columbia.
Missouri head coach Frank Haith has two of the nation's top scorers at his disposal in junior guards Jabari Brown (20.3 ppg) and Jordan Clarkson (19.2 ppg). In SEC games, that duo ranks first and fifth, respectively, in scoring among all conference players.
Brown is 33-of-68 from 3-point range against SEC opposition this season, giving him a league-leading .485 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
"They can shoot the ball... and they're really good drivers," Martin said. "They make free throws. I think they shot 39 free throws (Thursday) night against Arkansas. They make threes. They get to the rim. They get it out in transition. You can give those guys the ball at half court, and they're attacking the rim.
"So we've got to do a great job of trying to slow those guys down, corral them in transition, and force them to take tough shots and make tough plays in the half court."
McRae will be one of the Vols tasked with trying to contain the Tigers' talented backcourt.
"They look for a lot of production out of their guards," McRae said. "So it will be a challenge for us all night. We'll have to guard for the whole game. And that's a challenge that we're looking forward to."
Richardson told reporters one key to Saturday's gameplan will be to keep Mizzou's guards off the free-throw line.
"Guys like that like to find contact," Richardson said. "So you can't really body them up as much on their way to the goal. You've just got to adjust, and adjust early."
Clarkson and Brown have each scored in double figures in every Missouri game this season, but Martin was quick to point out Friday that the Tigers' arsenal is not limited to just its backcourt.
"You can't discredit their big guys," Martin said. "They do a great job of screening, driving and getting rebounds."