No. 11 Tennessee looks to keep rolling at Ole Miss

·3 min read

No. 11 Tennessee has lost two of its last three Southeastern Conference games.

But the Volunteers appear primed to make a second-half run in the conference after routing No. 15 Kansas 80-61 in the SEC/Big 12 Basketball Challenge on Saturday in Knoxville.

Tennessee (12-3, 5-3 SEC) will try to maintain that momentum Tuesday night when it resumes league play against Ole Miss (8-8, 3-6) in Oxford, Miss.

The Volunteers outrebounded the Jayhawks 38-23 and allowed zero second-chance points in a wire-to-wire win.

Coach Rick Barnes said improved toughness and rebounding were a point of emphasis going into the game against Kansas.

"We're either going to get tough enough and do it or we're going to struggle and lose games because of it," Barnes said. "We've just allowed people to play harder and be more aggressive and not go at it the way we need to. We said sooner or later we have to rebound the basketball. I thought early we were able to do that and now we'll see if we're tough enough to continue doing that."

Tennessee had lost at Florida (75-49) and at home against Missouri (73-64) before edging visiting Mississippi State (56-53) in its last conference game.

"We needed a big change," said Yves Pons, who scored a team-high 17 points against the Jayhawks. "We haven't been the Tennessee team we've been from the beginning. We got back to our standard. The talk we had (before the game) was really effective and efficient. We freed our minds and focused on what we have to do personally and what our jobs are on the team and I think everyone showed what they have to do."

Ole Miss did not participate in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge and lost at Georgia 71-61 in an SEC game Saturday.

The contest was close throughout, but the Bulldogs pulled away with a 15-8 run in the final nine minutes.

"That's all we'll do is watch the last 12 minutes of the game," Rebels coach Kermit Davis said of his planned game review. "They chased every ball down. They got rebounds. We couldn't get our guys to get back in and make any kinds of physical plays without the ball in their hands."

Ole Miss did a few good things. It outrebounded Georgia 40-30, including a 23-10 edge on the offensive glass that produced 17 second-chance points. It forced 19 turnovers and tallied 12 steals, half of which were part of Jarkel Joiner's career-high total.

But the Rebels shot just 35.9 percent (23 of 64) from the floor, including 2 of 13 on 3-pointers.

Georgia shot 55.3 percent (26 of 47) from the floor, including 50 percent (9 of 18) from downtown.

Ole Miss is shooting 25.9 percent from 3-point range in SEC play, compared to 37.4 percent for its opponents.

"We leave a lot of points on the board," Davis said. "It's a failure to execute."

--Field Level Media