GAME NOTES: In their first game back following a 2-1 run in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the Tennessee Volunteers play host to the Oakland Golden Grizzlies on Monday night.
Oakland has lost twice as many games as it has won through the first couple of weeks of the 2012-13 season, and the team is coming off a 70-52 defeat at the hands of the 15th-ranked Michigan State Spartans. The Golden Grizzlies, who play their basketball out of the Summit League, have a pair of wins over Albion and Texas Southern to their credit, and losses to MSU, Pittsburgh, Boise State and Louisiana. Still, Oakland has defeated a team from a BCS conference in each of the last two seasons, and in four of the last five years overall.
Tennesee is 3-1 on the young season, having topped Kennesaw State in the opener before taking on UNC Asheville, Oklahoma State and UMass in Puerto Rico. The team's lone setback occurred against the Cowboys (62-45), but it bounced back to take out the Minutemen (83-69). The Vols still have tough non- league bouts with Georgetown, Virginia, Wichita State, Xavier and Memphis before kicking off SEC play at home versus Ole Miss on Jan. 9, 2013.
Oakland has won both previous meetings with Tennessee, the two games nearly mirroring each other (89-82 in 2010, 89-81 in 2011).
Poor defensive play continues to plague the Golden Grizzlies, as opponents are shooting 47.6 percent from the field in averaging 75.2 ppg. Production at the offensive end keeps the team competitive however, as it nets 73.3 ppg in hitting 45.6 percent of its total shots. Oakland is losing the rebounding battle by an average of two caroms per contest, but the squad goads the opposition into 15 turnovers per outing. Currently, four players are averaging double digits in the scoring column, led by Travis Bader and his 17.2 ppg. Duke Mondy (16.0 ppg), Corey Petros (15.3 ppg) and Drew Valentine (10.7 ppg) round out the quartet, and the latter two are shooting well in excess of 50 percent from the floor. Bader has nearly as many three-pointers (22) as his closest teammates has attempts (Mondy, 25). Not surprisingly, the Grizzlies had a tough time in all phases of the game against Michigan State last time out, as they converted just 27.6 percent of their field goal attempts, missing 18-of-21 three-point tries along the way. Conversely, the Spartans made good on 53.1 percent of their total shots, logged a 43-28 rebounding advantage, and were nearly perfect from the free throw line (15-of-18). Mondy led Oakland with 16 points and he dished out five assists, while Petros finished with 14 points and nine boards. Bader had a terrible shooting night, going just 2- of-13 (both treys) in tallying a mere eight points.
Despite their favorable record, the Volunteers are averaging nearly the same number of points as they allow (69.8-66.5 ppg). The team is shooting 44.9 percent from the field, with the three-point shot falling at a rate of 39.0 percent. They routinely win the rebounding battle (36.8-33.2 rpg), and they permit the opposition to hit their three-point shots at just a 29.0 percent clip. UT relies on a balanced attack that boasts three double-digit scorers and a total of six guys who average between 8.0 and 13.8 ppg. Jarnell Stokes is the leading point producer coming into this matchup, and he is a 51.2 percent shooter who also heads the team's effort on the glass with 8.0 rpg. Stokes went off for 24 points and 12 rebounds in the recent win over UMass to close out the team's time in Puerto Rico, hitting 7-of-12 shots from the floor, but just 10-of-17 at the foul line. Jordan McRae added 12 points off the bench, while starting guards Josh Richardson, Trae Golden and Skylar McBee chipped in 11 points apiece. Richardson grabbed nine rebounds, and Golden handed out six assists. Tennessee made good on 7-of-16 three-point attempts, claimed a 51-37 rebounding advantage, and held the Minutemen to 34.8 percent field goal efficiency.
While Oakland has had Tennessee's number in each of the last two years, expect the Vols to exact some revenge as they prevail in the front of the hometown faithful in logging their fourth win in five opportunities this season.
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