Tennessee and Wyoming are both enjoying three-game win streaks. It’s clear that both teams’ coaches expect a competitive matchup Tuesday night when the ninth-ranked Volunteers host the Cowboys.
Tennessee (7-1) is the highest-scoring team in the SEC at 85.0 points per game. Wyoming ranks second in the Mountain West in that department at 80.3 points per game, behind No. 19 New Mexico.
“Wyoming turns people over 21 times a game,” Pearl said. “They run, and they press, and they’re big and athletic and fast, and they’ve got a deep bench. They absolutely will not mind running with us.
Wyoming (5-4) has not faced a SEC opponent since beating South Carolina 77-63 on Dec. 19, 2002. The Cowboys haven’t faced a Top 10 team since losing 83-69 to No. 10 Wichita State on Dec. 10, 2006.
“They’re No. 9 in the country,” said Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer about Tennessee. “It will be a huge challenge for us, but I know our guys are excited to play one of the best teams in the country. It is one of those experiences you need to go through as a young team to grow.”
Tennessee last played Friday in a 75-54 victory over Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders played a slow-paced style that’s in stark contrast to how Wyoming likes to push the ball upcourt.
“When coach Pearl showed us clips of this team, and we saw how they like to get up and down, I looked at guys, and everybody was smiling,” point guard Bobby Maze said. “A couple of games previously, we’ve played some teams that like to run the shot clock down all the way to eight seconds, and then try to score. But this team likes to score early, which means we can get a lot of transition baskets.”
Maze was the only Volunteers starter to score in double figures Friday with 13 points. Reserve J.P Prince led the way with 17 - eight fewer than he had all season.
Both teams have four players averaging in double digits. The Cowboys lead the nation with 234 made foul shots and three starters have shot at least 48.
“Wyoming makes more free throws than any team in the country,” Pearl said. “That’s a national stat you can’t take your eyes off of. They pound it inside and they drive the ball to the basket.”
Afam Muojeke is one of those players for the Cowboys, averaging a team-high 16.7 points. Muojeke scored 15 points and Adam Waddell added 13 on Saturday in a 76-70 win over Northern Colorado.
Wyoming held its fourth opponent to less than 40 percent shooting, with Northern Colorado finishing at 37.9 percent.
“We guarded really well tonight,” Schroyer said. “To hold them to 33 percent from three was big for us.”
Tennessee won both previous meetings with Wyoming in 1958.