March 7, 2014
@VOL_HOOPS REPORT: Vols Seeking Fourth Straight Win
The Tennessee basketball team rides the momentum of a three-game win streak into Saturday's 4 p.m. regular-season finale against Missouri at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The game, which will be televised nationally on ESPN, is an opportunity for the Volunteers to secure their second 20-win season under third-year head coach Cuonzo Martin. It also marks the final home game for Tennessee seniors Antonio Barton, D'Montre Edwards, Jeronne Maymon and Jordan McRae.
Senior Day ceremonies take place on the court prior to the game, and fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 3:45 to help honor this year's senior quartet.
"Senior Day is always an emotional time," Martin said. "Our guys have been through the program, done some great things, they represented the program the right way, and all those guys will get their degrees.
"It should be a very emotional day for us. It should be a tremendous crowd, a great atmosphere and we're really looking forward to it."
Each senior met with the media Friday before Tennessee's practice at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"It's been an incredible adventure," Maymon said if his career as a Vol. "It's been good though. I've been blessed. It's exciting, but then it's bittersweet at the same time."
It will almost certainly be a bittersweet Senior Day for Edwards, who suffered a foot injury in practice Feb. 24 and has not practiced since. While his playing status is day-to-day, his outlook is positive.
"(Being a Vol) has meant a lot to me," Edwards said. "Being able to play for my family, my team... just to have this experience that a lot of people don't have. It's really humbling, and I'm blessed."
Barton, Maymon and McRae, meanwhile, have been playing extremely well as of late. The trio is averaging 39.7 points during UT's current three-game win streak (51.1 percent of the team's scoring).
Barton and McRae have combined to shoot 45 percent from 3-point range during that span, as each have made nine triples during the streak (18-of-40).
Though Barton's senior season is his first as a Vol (he is a senior transfer from Memphis), he has developed a love for Tennessee, nonetheless.
"I've enjoyed every moment of my time here," Barton said. "Of course it's been short, but being here was a great experience. I love the crowd, I love my teammates, the coaches ... everything. They made me feel like I've been here all my life."
In addition to four student-athletes, Tennessee also will honor a pair of senior student assistant coaches Saturday. Greeneville, Tenn., native Russell Ottinger and Sevierville, Tenn., native Jordan Whaley are both completing their fourth season with the program.
Tennessee has won its home finale each of the last two seasons.
TAMING THE TIGERS
Tennessee looks to avenge a 75-70 loss at Missouri back on Feb. 15.
In that setback, the Vols rallied from down by as many as 13 to lead in the second half, but the Tigers managed to outlast the Big Orange - thanks largely in part to a pair of clutch baskets by Mizzou point guard Jordan Clarkson in the closing moments.
"Missouri is a team where you really have to get back in transition," Vols senior Jordan McRae said. "Their guards will kill you if you're not back."
In that first meeting, McRae led all scorers with 31 points, while Jabari Brown scored 24 for Missouri. Brown's scoring output marked the most points ever by a Tiger in the series with Tennessee (eight games).
Missouri is one of only three SEC programs - joining Kentucky and Alabama - to lead its all-time series with Tennessee, as the Tigers own a 5-3 edge, dating to 1961.
Interestingly, the Vols also hosted Missouri last season on Senior Day. Tennessee posted a thrilling 64-62 triumph. UT dominated the glass in that win, 45-32, and McRae scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half.
Now, as Saturday's clash looms, Tennessee senior forward Jeronne Maymon attributed UT's recent surge in success in one simple word.
"Enthusiasm," Maymon said. " We've kind of rejuvenated ourselves. We're excited to play basketball. We see that we're still in the race to do some good things."
NCAA Tournament "bubble" talk surrounds both the Vols and the Tigers, but McRae said he's doing all he can to keep the Big Orange focused on Saturday's game.
"As a leader of the team, I'm just trying to keep everybody's mind on this one game right here," McRae said. "Then, when we get to Atlanta (for the SEC Tournament next week), we'll worry about everything there."