Hoops Preview: Tennessee vs. Ole Miss in SEC Tournament

Fifth-seeded Tennessee begins SEC Tournament play Thursday in Nashville, taking on No. 13 seed Ole Miss at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET.
Fans can catch Thursday’s game on SEC Network and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Karl Ravech (play-by-play), Jimmy Dykes (analyst) and Marty Smith (reporter) will have the call.
Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp describing the action.
Tennessee (22-9) enters the week looking to defend its 2022 SEC Tournament title. A year ago in Tampa, the Vols defeated Mississippi State, Kentucky and Texas A&M in a three-day span to capture the program’s first SEC Tournament title in 43 years.
Saturday marks the second meeting this season between Tennessee and Ole Miss. The Vols defeated the Rebels in Oxford on Dec. 28, 63-59, and have won seven of the past eight meetings overall.
With a win Thursday, Tennessee would advance to face No. 4 seed Missouri in Friday’s quarterfinals at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET.
• Tennessee leads its all-time series with Ole Miss, 77-45, dating to 1924.
• Tennessee has won seven of the last eight meetings.
• The SEC opener back on Dec. 28 was the only meeting between these teams this season. The Vols triumphed, 63-59, in Oxford.
• When these programs meet in the SEC Tournament, Ole Miss owns a 7-5 advantage. The most recent SEC Tournament clash was an overtime win for the Rebels in New Orleans in 2012, 77-72.
• Tennessee is 4-1 this season in neutral-site games. The lone loss came against Colorado at Bridgestone Arena in UT’s second game of the season.
• The Volunteers are 10-10 all-time at Bridgestone Arena.
• Since 2018, Tennessee is 8-3 in SEC Tournament games (.727), with three championship game appearances.
• Tennessee won last season’s SEC Tournament in Tampa.
• Tennessee is No. 3 in the NCAA’s NET ratings and hasn’t dropped below No. 4 all season. The Vols have racked up seven Quad 1 wins.
• Tennessee and Baylor remain the only teams in the country that own at least three wins over teams currently ranked in the top 10 of the NET ratings.
• During regular-season SEC play, the Vols led the league in assists per game (16.72) and assist/turnover ratio (1.55).
• Santiago Vescovi has repeated as an All-SEC first-team selection, while Zakai Zeigler earned All-SEC second-team and All-Defensive Team honors. Julian Phillips was named to the All-Freshman Team.
• The Vols haven’t played with the rotation fully healthy since Feb. 8.
• Lang Wiseman (1989-93) will be honored as Tennessee’s SEC Legend this week.
• For the 15th straight week, the Volunteers own the best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country per KenPom, allowing only 87.8 points per 100 possessions.
• Tennessee owns Division I’s best field-goal percentage defense (.364) and 3-point defense (.255), as well as the nation’s third-best scoring defense (57.5 ppg).
• 12 times this season, the Vols have held their opponents to 50 points or less. No other Division I team has more than 10 such performances.
• Only five teams have reached the 70-point mark against these Vols.
• Only nine opposing players have scored 20 or more points against the Vols this season.
• In its five neutral-site games this season, Tennessee is allowing only 58.4 points per game with a +5.2 rebounding margin and a +2.6 turnover margin. Its opponents are shooting just .229 from 3-point range (25 for 109).
• Ole Miss (11-20, 3-15 SEC) finished 13th in the SEC and enters Thursday’s game coming off a win over No. 12 seed South Carolina during Wednesday night’s opening session of games.
• On Feb. 24, Ole Miss announced a change in leadership of the men’s basketball program, mutually parting ways with fifth-year head coach Kermit Davis. Assistant coach Win Case has served as Ole Miss’ acting head coach for the past four games, posting a 2-2 record.
• During the teams’ Dec. 28 meeting, Tennessee held Ole Miss leading scorer Matthew Murrell to his second-lowest scoring output of the season. Murrell, who averaged 14.9 ppg during the regular season, was 1-for-9 from the field and scored five points.
• Ole Miss’ second-leading scorer, Jaemyn Brakefield, finished 17th in the SEC in scoring during conference play (13.1 ppg) and 11th in rebounding (6.2 rpg).
• Lockdown defense in the second half and an explosive offensive effort from Santiago Vescovi proved to be the difference as No. 7 Tennessee escaped with a win at Ole Miss on Dec. 28 in both teams’ SEC opener, 63-59.
• The Volunteers fell behind by as many as 10 points in the first half and trailed for nearly 22 minutes of game time but were able to secure their first true road win of the season
• Vescovi led the way offensively for Tennessee with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
• Jonas Aidoo had a standout performance on the boards for Tennessee with a career-high 13 rebounds—six offensive—and eight points in a career-high 29 minutes.
• Zakai Zeigler was the second Vol in double figures, shooting just 2-for-9 from the field but chipping in 13 points—thanks to a 9-for-10 performance at the free-throw line.
• Defensively, Tennessee held Ole Miss’ leading scorer—Matthew Murrell, who entered the game averaging 15.6 points per game—to just five points on 1-for-11 shooting. Murrell was defended primarily by Jahmai Mashack, who finished the game with a team-high plus/minus rating of +12 in 22 impactful minutes.
• After the Vols trailed by six points at halftime and had played from behind for almost the entirety of the first half, Tennessee’s defense put on the clamps coming out of the break—forcing Ole Miss to misfire on seven of its first eight field goal attempts of the period.
• The Vols’ shutdown defense allowed the offense to catch up on the scoreboard, as Tennessee outscored Ole Miss 8-2 in the opening 6:16 of the second half to knot the score up at 36.
• As a team, Ole Miss shot just 28 percent in the second half, compared to 46 percent in the first half.
• Tennessee captured 80 total wins over SEC opponents (regular season and SEC Tournament) over the last six seasons—more than any other program.
• Kentucky ranks second during that span with 79 total SEC wins, while Auburn ranks third with 72.
• During that same time frame, the Vols also are the most successful league school in the SEC Tournament, recording a conference-best eight SEC Tournament wins
• Only Auburn (142) has more overall victories than Tennessee (141) spanning the last six seasons.
• Tennessee’s seven Quad 1 wins this season are second-most in the SEC, trailing only Alabama’s nine.
• The Vols’ 13 games against Quad 1 opponents tie for third-most among SEC teams. Alabama and Florida both have played 14.
• For the second straight season, Santiago Vescovi led the SEC in 3-point percentage during league games (.387). He also ranked second in 3-point makes per game (2.71) during SEC play.
• As a junior last season, Vescovi shot a league-best .445 during SEC play while making a league-leading 3.17 triples per game.
• In three career games at Bridgestone Arena, Vescovi is shooting .346 from 3-point range (9 for 26).
• Prior to SEC play, freshman forward Julian Phillips was shooting .347 from the field. But in conference games, he boosted that shooting percentage to an efficient .500.
• Overall this season, Phillips is giving the Vols 9.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. He has attempted a team-high 111 free throws—making them at an .820 clip.

-UT Athletics

Vols G-F Josiah-Jordan James / Credit: UT Athletics


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