HOOPS CENTRAL: #5 TENNESSEE AT MISSISSIPPI STATE

Courtesy / UT Athletics

HOOPS CENTRAL: #5 TENNESSEE AT MISSISSIPPI STATE

Courtesy / UT Athletics

STARKVILLE, Miss. – The fifth-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball team hits the road for the first time in SEC play, traveling south to take on Mississippi State Wednesday night at Humphrey Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET. 

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THE LATEST FROM THE VOLS

 Vols in the Pros Update: Jan. 8Vols Remain Fifth in Both Polls#5 Vols Hand #22/19 Ole Miss First Loss, 90-64#5 Vols End Non-Conference Play with 87-50 Win over Norfolk State

Fans can catch Wednesday’s game between the Vols (11-3) and Bulldogs (11-3) on SEC Network. Mike Morgan (play-by-play) and Mark Wise (analyst) will have the call.

Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Steve Hamer describing the action.

Tennessee wrapped up its non-conference slate Tuesday night with a dominant 87-50 victory over Norfolk State at Food City Center. The Vols, behind a game-high 17 points from junior guard Zakai Zeigler, earned their sixth consecutive triumph.

THE MATCHUP
• Tennessee is 9-1 in its last 10 outings against Mississippi State, dating back to 2/27/18. The Volunteers were ranked in all nine wins and unranked in the lone defeat (2/1/20).
• The Volunteers’ five straight wins over the Bulldogs, dating back to 1/26/21, have come by an average of 14.0 ppg. The streak includes the bigest margin of victory in series history by either side, a 34-point home triumph, 87-53, on 1/3/23.
• Mississippi State was tabbed seventh in the SEC preseason poll after finishing 21-13 (8-10) and reaching the NCAA Tournament last year.
• Graduate student forward Tolu Smith III, a Preseason First Team All-SEC pick who has played in just two games due to an injury that kept him out of the first 12 contests, is averaging a team-best 14.5 ppg, shooting 9-of-11 from the floor and 11-of-12 from the line.
• Rick Barnes is 22-5 against the SEC’s two Mississippi schools as a head coach, including 19-5 in his nine-year tenure at Tennessee.

OPENED OVER OLE MISS
• Tennessee defeated #22/19 Ole Miss (1/6/24) in its first SEC game, 90-64. It marked the Volunteers’ largest win over a ranked team since a 30-point decision, 88- 58, on 2/16/13 against #25/RV Kentucky. It was also the second- largest win by any team against an AP-ranked foe this season.
• UT has now snapped both 13- game winning streaks in Ole Miss history, beating the Rebels in the SEC opener in Knoxville in both 2007-08 and 2023-24.
• The Vols, who led by 20-plus for the final 14:56, set season highs in second-chance points (22) and second-chance margin (plus-17).
• In the victory over the Rebels, Zakai Zeigler (17 points, 10 assists) and Jonas Aidoo (24 points, 10 rebounds) became the first Volunteer duo to have two different types of double-doubles in the same gainst since Jordan Bone (18 points, 10 assists) and Grant Williams (22 points, 10 rebounds) 2/2/19 at Texas A&M.
• Zeigler’s points/assists double- double was the sixth of his career, setting a new school record.

NEWS & NOTES
• This will be Rick Barnes‘ 1,200th game as a head coach, making him the 13th individual (min. 10 years in DI) to reach that mark, including the third active coach to do so.
• Tennessee is already in its fifth stretch of the season with over a week between home games.
• Zakai Zeigler is shooting 14-of-33 (42.4 percent) from 3-point range over the last four games and has four-plus makes in three of them. Prior to that stretch he was at 104- of-326 (31.9 percent) from deep in his career, including 9-of-37 (24.3 percent) this season, with four makes twice in 75 appearances.
• Per Will Warren, Tennessee has registered at least 1.0 point per possession in each of its last eight games, its longest streak since notching 21 in a row during the 2018-19 season.
• The SEC leads all conferences with 42 total Quad 1/2 victories and the Volunteers pace the league with six such decisions. Tennessee is also tied with Auburn for the fewest number of Quad 4 contests (four) in the SEC.

QUALITY COMPANY
• Tennessee, Arizona, Kansas and Purdue are the only four teams to earn an AP top-five ranking in each of the past three seasons (2021-24).
• In addition, Tennessee, Baylor, Houston and Kansas are the only four schools ranked in the AP top six each of the past four years (2020-24).
• Tennessee is one of only six teams to reach the AP top six in four of the last six seasons (2018-24), joining Baylor, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas (all six) and Kentucky. Those are six of the only nine programs to enter the AP top five at least four of the past six years, alongside Michigan, Michigan State and Virginia.
• The Volunteers are one of only 11 teams to earn an AP top-two ranking in greater than one of the past six seasons. The others are Arizona, Baylor (three), Duke (four), Gonzaga (five), Kansas (four), Kentucky, Michigan, Purdue, UCLA and Virginia.

RACKING UP RANKED VICTORIES
• Over the past four seasons (2020-24), Tennessee leads all SEC teams in AP top-25 wins with 17, good for co-seventh nationally. It is also tied for with Arkansas for first among SEC schools in AP top-10 victories with seven, placing co-fifth nationally. UT’s five AP top-five wins in that span pace the SEC and are tied for the most of any team in America.
• The seven AP top-10 triumphs during that time are: #1 Alabama (2/15/23), #3 Kansas (11/25/22), #3 Auburn (2/26/22), #4 Kentucky (2/15/22), #5 Kentucky (3/12/22), #6 Arizona (12/22/21) and #10 Texas (1/28/23).
• Over the last four seasons (2020-24), Tennessee has played a league-high 31 games against AP Top 25 opponents, going 17-14 (.548). The Vols are the only SEC team, regardless of number of games, with a winning record against ranked foes during that span, while Alabama is second at 13-15 (.464).
• Tennessee (31), Arkansas (29) and Alabama (28) are the only SEC teams to play over 25 ranked opponents since the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

WINNING WAYS
• Over the last seven seasons, dating back to the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Tennessee leads all SEC teams in total victories (155; T-1st) and postseason wins (15), while placing a close second in winning percentage (.721). In that span, the Vols have claimed a pair of SEC championships, winning the regular season in 2018 and the tournament in 2022.
• In that same seven-year stretch, the Vols are one of only three SEC schools with an overall winning percentage over .700, alongside Auburn (.724) and Kentucky (.706). No other SEC team is at even .660.
• In regular season SEC play over the same seven- year period, Tennessee (75-33) owns a league-best .706 winning percentage and joins Kentucky (73-35) as the only teams to log at least 70 league victories.
• Over the last three seasons only (2021-24), UT owns a 63-22 (.741) overall record. That is good for the most victories and the best winning percentage of any SEC team in that span.

DOMINANT DECISIONS
• Since the start of last season, Tennessee has 17 wins by 20-plus points. Twelve of them, a single-season program record, came in 2022-23.
• Six of UT’s 12 SEC wins over the last two years been by at least 20 points, including five of 11 in 2022-23.
• Last season, the Volunteers won nine games by 30-plus, six by at least 35 and four by at least 40.

POLL PRESENCE
• Furthermore, UT owns a 113-41 (.734) record while ranked in the AP top 20 during Barnes’ tenure, an 82-28 (.745) mark while in the top 15, a 62-19 (.765) ledger while in the top 10, a 26-7 (.788) tally while in the top five, a 17-2 (.895) record while in the top three and a 7-1 (.875) mark while ranked No. 1.
• The Vols are 22-20 (.524) in top-25 matchups under Barnes, including 17-13 (.567) with both teams in the top 20, 9-7 (.562) with both in the top 15 and 6-5 (.545) with both in the top 10.
• Tennessee has played 180 games as a ranked team in the AP Poll under Rick Barnes, posting a stellar 134-46 (.744) record. Over 64.0 percent of the Volunteers’ games since Barnes arrived in 2015-16 have come with the team ranked in the AP Poll.

4×1,000
• Tennessee, Auburn, Creighton, Memphis, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, St. Bonaventure, St. John’s (six), TCU (five) and Villanova are the only 11 DI schools with four-plus 1,000-point scorers. Only four teams joined that group before the Volunteers.
• Santiago Vescovi (1,433), the lone Volunteer to enter 2023-24 in quadruple figures and one of 23 1,400-point scorers in UT history, hit that figure on 12/17/22 at Arizona in his 90th contest.
• Dalton Knecht (1,170) reached the 1K mark on 11/10/23 at Wisconsin in his 69th career outing and his second as a Volunteer. He scored 959 points in 67 games over two seasons at North Colorado.
• Josiah-Jordan James (1,123) reached the milestone on 11/14/23 versus Wofford in his 111th appearance and is now one of 48 Vols with 1,100-plus points.
• Jordan Gainey (1,050) entered quadruple digits on 11/29/23 at North Carolina in his 71st collegiate outing and his seventh at Tennessee. He scored 929 points across 64 games in two years at USC Upstate.
• That group owns a combined 4,776 points at the Division I level, an average of 1,194 each.

Courtesy / UT Athletics

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