WHO: No. 13 Tennessee Volunteers (5-1) vs. McNeese State (2-5)
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, at 7:15 p.m. ET
WHERE: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, TN
HOW TO WATCH: SEC Network
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
Tennessee: G Tyreke Key, G Santiago Vescovi, F Julian Phillips, F Olivier Nkamhoua, F Uros Plasvic
McNeese State: G Trae English, G Harwin Francois, G Johnathan Massie, F Dionjahe Thomas, F Malachi Rhodes
SPREAD: Tennessee -34.5
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – After being crowned champions of The Battle 4 Atlantis, the now 13th-ranked Volunteers look to make it 20 straight home wins as they take on the McNeese State Cowboys of the Southland Conference this Wednesday, the first of a three-game home stretch at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Vols had a perfect record in the Bahamas, going 3-0 with games against Butler, USC, and then capping off the weekend with a resounding 64-50 win against No. 3 Kansas in the championship game.
Santiago Vescovi was named Tournament MVP, and earned All-Tournament honors alongside Tennessee Freshman Julian Phillips.
Tennessee’s defense and rebounding stood out all tournament, holding the defending champion Jayhawks to only 50 points, shooting 32.7% from the field. Meanwhile, the Vols had a +9.0 rebounding margin over the three-game tournament.
Rick Barnes has the Vols playing exceptional defense, they now rank 5th in the nation in defensive efficiency.
Senior All-SEC Forward Josiah-Jordan James missed all three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis with a knee injury. It is unclear when Tennessee’s leading scorer will return. He last played Nov. 17, against Florida Gulf Coast.
Their opponent, McNeese State is currently 9th in the Southland Conference with a 2-5 record. They are on a two-game losing skid, falling to UT Martin 86-83 on Monday and No. 7 Baylor 89-60 last Wednesday.
The Cowboys will have a tough time putting the ball in the hoop Wednesday night. Tennessee opponents are shooting 36.7% from the field, and on top of that, McNeese State shoots an absurdly low 54.2% from the free throw line. That is 351st out of the 352 D1 schools in college hoops.
Players to Watch
Tennessee: The Vols should have control of this game from the opening tip, an opportunity for players off the bench to get some run. Look for Sophomore Jonas Aidoo to have a large impact in this game as he looks to capitalize on his stellar week in the Bahamas, leading the team in rebounds (7.0 rpg) and blocks (3.3 bpg), while coming off the bench.
With how bad McNeese State is at the free throw line, Aidoo -and the Vols defense as a whole- can afford to play more aggressively.
Jahmai Mashack is another sophomore who is turning heads for the Volunteers. The lengthy combo guard had seven steals in last week’s three-game tournament. Look for Mashack to wreak havoc once again on Wednesday.
It will be interesting to see if Rick Barnes gets Mashack to shoot from deep more often, after missing his lone three in the Bahamas. Nonetheless, his hustle and versatility will be on display.
Four-star Freshman BJ Edwards will look to see increased playing time. He has only appeared in three games this season, scoring a combined seven points in eight minutes.
McNeese State: The Cowboys are led by Christian Shumate, and Trae English who lead the team in scoring with 12.9 ppg, and 12.7 ppg respectively. This team has a balanced scoring attack with two more players averaging at least 9 ppg.
Shumate, the 6’7 Sophomore, also leads the team in rebounding (10.6 rpg). He will likely draw a matchup with 6’8 Vols freshman Julian Phillips. Shumate came off the bench for the first time this season in their last game against UT Martin. An odd move since coach John Aiken played him 32 minutes anyway.
Sophomore Guard Trae English scored a career-high 29 points in their last game against UT Martin. He hit five threes that game and leads the team in assists (3.6 apg).
Do not expect the eight-man rotation that Rick Barnes rolled out against No. 3 Kansas last week. Look for something similar to the Tennessee Tech game where 12 different players logged minutes in the blowout win.
This game may very well be Tennessee’s largest win margin of the year as they start the first of three straight home games at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee 81, McNeese State 46