While Tennessee continues to struggle in February, Texas A&M has been unbeatable this month.
Looking to avoid a fourth straight SEC road defeat, the No. 11 Volunteers try to keep the No. 25 Aggies from improving to 6-0 in February on Tuesday night at College Station, Texas.
Tennessee (20-7, 9-5 in SEC) might be a No. 3 NCAA Tournament seed according to the Men’s Basketball Committee’s initial rankings, but it has not played to that level of late. With Saturday’s 66-54 loss at Kentucky, the Vols fell to 2-4 this month.
Three of those defeats have come on the road, and Tennessee is averaging just 62.0 points on 36.3-percent shooting (26.6 percent from 3-point range) overall in February. Against Kentucky, Tennessee was an embarrassing 4 of 14 from the free-throw line.
“The main thing we have to make sure is having a short-term memory with (the Kentucky loss),” said Volunteers guard Jahmai Mashack, who posted career highs of 16 points and eight rebounds on Saturday.
“We’re going to come out even better. … We’re just trying to get back to how we do things.”
Tennessee has not dropped three straight road games overall, or in the SEC, since 2016-2017. The Vols are 4-4 this season away from home, while going 12-2 in their own building.
“When we have the home court, we have the energy of the fans,” Mashack said. “(Going on the road), we need to get even higher on our energy, because we’re away. And, our energy needs to come from ourselves.”
That energy level likely needs to be maxed out against Texas A&M (20-7, 12-2), which has shown this month it can win anywhere, while off to the best conference start in school history. Since losing 81-70 at Arkansas on Jan. 31, the Aggies have held opponents to 62.6 points per game and 40.5-percent shooting, while winning all five February contests.
The effort moved them back into the Top 25 this week.
Wade Taylor IV had 21 points, while Dexter Dennis finished with 17 and 10 rebounds, as Texas A&M overcame a season-high 21 turnovers by holding Missouri to 39.2-percent shooting and owning a 41-23 advantage on the boards for Saturday’s 69-60 road victory. The result kept the Aggies one game back of SEC-leading Alabama, and three up on Tennessee, which is tied for third in the league.
“I don’t know if lucky is the right word. Playing at this level is so hard,” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said.
“When we didn’t turn the ball over (Saturday), I think we did really well. … It became more of we preferred to play, instead of the way they preferred to play.”
Taylor (15.6 points per game) continues to roll while averaging 21.0 points and 5.3 assists in the last four contests. Dennis, meanwhile, has averaged 14.7 points over a three-game stretch, and totaled 21 boards in the last two.
The Aggies will look to avoid a fourth straight defeat against Tennessee, which won 65-50 at the 2022 SEC tournament title game in the most recent meeting. Volunteers star Santiago Vescovi (12.5 points per game) had 17 points in that contest, and has averaged 15.5 points on 45.5-percent shooting, and going 14 of 31 from beyond the arc, in the last four.
–Field Level Media