Dec. 22, 2009
After suffering a loss its last time out, Tennessee is determined to come out with more energy. That isn't a good sign for overmatched North Carolina A&T.
The 16th-ranked Volunteers look to regroup and take out their frustration on the Aggies on Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee (8-2) looked strong during the first month of the season, losing only to then-No. 6 Purdue 73-72 in the title game of the Paradise Jam on Nov. 23, but it was outplayed in Saturday's 77-55 loss at Southern California.
The Volunteers were outrebounded 43-21 and finished with a season-low five assists. Tennessee entered the game 13th in the nation in scoring at 84.1 points per game and was shooting 40.6 percent from 3-point range, but made a season-worst 2 of 22 from beyond the arc en route to its lowest point total of the season.
"That's just something that you don't want from an experienced team," coach Bruce Pearl said.
It was the most lopsided loss in Pearl's five-season tenure at Tennessee and caused the Vols to drop seven spots in the latest AP poll.
Sophomore guard Scotty Hopson believes the defeat can act as a wake-up call and will get guys committed to playing better.
"We're trying to get that loss behind us and come up with a different attitude as far as working harder," said Hopson, averaging a team-best 14.1 points. "I think guys are ready to play Wednesday. We want this game so bad. We're going to refocus and bounce back from this."
A game against North Carolina A&T seems like a good way the Vols can go into the Christmas break on a positive note. They don't play again after this game until visiting Memphis on Dec. 31.
The Aggies (4-7) have one win in eight games away from home this season and are 4-71 in road games against non-conference opponents since 1999-2000. Trying to shake these road woes at Thompson-Boling Arena won't be easy.
Tennessee has outscored opponents by an average of 30.3 points in winning all five of its games in Knoxville this season, and has won 34 of 36 at home against non-conference foes.
Hopson is feeling right at home at Thompson-Boling Arena, averaging 17.2 points and 55.6 percent shooting from 3-point range in five games there.
North Carolina A&T is coming off Monday's 80-59 loss at Miami, its fifth defeat in six games.
Dwane Joshua scored a game-high 14 points for the Aggies, who have been outrebounded in all but one game and are allowing an average of 83.1 points in their eight road contests.
North Carolina A&T also has had no luck against ranked opponents, losing all 14 games against Top 25 teams since 1996 by an average of 33.4 points. One of those defeats was a 93-59 loss to then-No. 11 Tennessee on Nov. 27, 2007, the only previous meeting between these programs.
In that game, the Vols took a school-record 50 3-point attempts, but only made 14.