Tennessee (8-5) at Alabama (8-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 12, 1 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Coleman Coliseum (15,316) -- Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: UT 6-2, Alabama 5-3. Away Record: UT 0-2, Alabama 1-3. Neutral Record: UT 2-1, Alabama 2-0. Conference Record: UT 0-1, Alabama 0-1. Series Record: Alabama leads, 74-65.
GAME NOTES: A pair of SEC team coming off losses in their league openers meet at Coleman Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, as the Alabama Crimson Tide play host to the Tennessee Volunteers.
The Vols lost their second straight game at home on Wednesday night when they fell to Ole Miss, 92-74. The season as a whole has been a success for Tennessee, as it had won its previous four games and currently sits with an 8-5 mark, but it has gone winless in its only two true road tilts, falling to Georgetown (37-36) and Virginia (46-38).
Alabama's season started off in fantastic fashion, with wins in each of its first six games, but since then it has been trending downward. The Tide are losers of six of their last eight games to fall to 8-6, which includes an 84-68 setback at nationally-ranked Missouri on Tuesday night.
The Crimson Tide have won both of their matchups against the Vols in the past two seasons to improve their all-time record over their conference rival to 74-65.
Not only did Tennessee shoot a lackluster 38.5 percent from the field in its latest game, but it also got into foul trouble early and often as it sent Ole Miss to the free throw line an astounding 44 times (in which the Rebels converted 38-of-44). Despite the defeat, Jordan McRae continued his hot streak, tying a career-high with 26 points for the second consecutive game. Jarnell Stokes was also impressive with 15 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. The Vols' offensive output this year has been modest at best, as they shoot 42 percent from the field for 61.3 ppg, but they usually rely on tough defensive play as they rank sixth in the SEC in points allowed (61.3 ppg). That number has gone way up in the past week however, as they have permitted at least 85 points in both recent losses. McRae's impressive play of late has made him the team's top scorer (12.7 ppg), while Stokes has been a steady force in the paint with 11.6 ppg and 7.8 rpg. Trae Golden shoots a mere 35.9 percent from the floor for his 11.4 ppg, but he has more than twice as many assists (56) as turnovers (24).
Alabama was no match on the road against one of the nation's top teams on Tuesday, as it was outshot by Missouri, .566 to .436, and it was also hampered by 16 turnovers. Trevor Releford did his best to keep his team in the game by shooting 8-of-14 from the field and 7-of-8 from the foul line for a career- high 26 points, surpassing his previous career-best of 25 set earlier this season against Villanova. Rodney Cooper added 11 points and seven rebounds in the setback, while Devonta Pollard chipped in 10 points. The Tide have put together a similar season to the Vols, as they generally struggle to score (65.7 ppg), yet they are able to post a winning record thanks to some strong defensive play (60.6 ppg). Releford shines in the backcourt, ranking seventh in the SEC in scoring with 16.4 ppg, while boasting stellar percentages from the floor (.482) and the foul line (.843). Trevor Lacey (12.3 ppg, 3.4 apg) has drained a team-high 26 3-pointers at a 41.9 percent clip, and Cooper rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers with 12.2 ppg while also grabbing 4.7 rpg, which is tops on the squad.
These two teams evoke similar styles, so a tight matchup from start to finish should be expected. Tennessee's struggles of late have been worrisome, and its deficiencies will only be amplified on the road. Alabama should be able to feed off the energy in the building and get a few clutch buckets from Releford down the stretch to claim its first league win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 67, Tennessee 62
01/12 10:33:54 ET