KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It seemed like last season's Southeastern Conference matchup between Tennessee and Texas A&M would never end. The two teams, playing for the first time as SEC foes, played for 60 minutes -- a four-overtime thriller -- before a winner emerged in College Station, Texas.
It was the longest game in Tennessee basketball history and the Vols eaked out a 93-85 victory.
On Saturday, Texas A&M comes to Knoxville for the rematch.
The Volunteers and Aggies boast identical 10-4 (1-0 SEC) records. Tipoff at Thompson-Boling Arena is set for 6:05 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised regionally on FOX Sports Net.
The Vols ride a four-game win streak into Saturday’s showdown. Despite a few setbacks in pre-conference play, they started league play on a winning note Tuesday at LSU.
“Just to be able to come out and play as well as we did shows a lot about us,” Vols junior Josh Richardson said. “Our first SEC road game, to come out and win it so convincingly, it gives us a lot of confidence.
Richardson was asked what adjustments were made to enable the team to perform so efficiently of late.
“Our defense has been a lot more consistent, and we’ve been putting two halves together. That’s definitely been showing,” Richardson said. “We’ve just been following the game plan, really. Just executing.”
Texas A&M opened SEC play Wednesday night with a home win over Arkansas.
“They’re a fast team. They’re really athletic,” Richardson, a native of Oklahoma, said. “Alex Caruso I know is really athletic. My friend Jordan Green plays for them, and I know he’s a pretty good player. They’re pretty loaded across the board.”
Saturday’s game on Rocky Top will be the Aggies’ first game outside the state of Texas this season.
MARTIN DISCUSSES HUBBS’ SHOULDER INJURY
While meeting with reporters Thursday, Martin talked about the nagging left shoulder injury that has hampered freshman wing Robert Hubbs III this season.
Hubbs’ injury dates to his senior season in high school last winter. He has worn a soft brace during all of UT’s games and practices this season.
He has not played in Tennessee’s last two games, and Martin indicated that Hubbs’ season could end prematurely so that the UT medical staff can address the problem surgically.
Martin said the chances of shutting Hubbs down for the remainder of the season stood at “50-50” and that he will discuss all the potential options with Hubbs’ family before a final decision is made.
“Right now we’re getting all the information that’s necessary – talking with his family and the trainers and doctors and figuring out the best-case scenario moving forward,” Martin said. “The most important thing for me as a coach is Robert’s safety. That’s the bottom line.”
A native of Newbern, Tenn., Hubbs has appeared in 12 contests for the Vols and has averaged 5.0 points and 1.5 rebounds in 18.3 minutes off the bench.
“You’re talking about a very talented player and a guy you count on for production,” Martin said. “We know he hasn’t played as well as he’s capable of playing, but he’s a guy who brings a lot to the table. He’s in a brace, so it’s tough to do the things he needs to do to be successful.”
EDWARDS STAYED READY
After scoring a career-high 12 points during Tennessee’s Jan. 4 win over Tusculum College, wing D’Montre Edwards was the first player off UT’s bench in Tuesday’s victory at LSU.
The senior from Charleston, S.C., had totaled just 10 minutes played in three appearances prior to the turning of the calendar. But when his opportunity arose, he was ready to capitalize.
“I was just ready,” Edwards said. “Coach (Martin) texts us all the time individually, telling us to keep your head in the game, stay strong, your time is coming. You never know, so you have to just keep working on your game.”
Within moments of checking into the LSU game Tuesday, Edwards drained a 3-pointer from the right wing. But he knows it will take more than just scoring to maintain a spot in Martin’s rotation.
“I just want to go hard in practice every day,” Edwards said. “Coach will decide come game time (who is going to get minutes that night). As long as I’m able to defend at a high level consistently, then hopefully I can get some more minutes out there.”
A leader in Tennessee’s service projects off the court, Edwards is a nominee for the 2014 Allstate NABC Good Works Team, which honors players for outstanding efforts in community outreach.
EMPHASIS OF THE DAY
Thursday’s “Emphasis of the Day” – daily mid-court talking points spearheaded by Martin prior to each practice – focused on preparedness.
“Toughness” Preparation – everybody has a will to win, but not everybody has a will to prepare to win. Preparation leads to confidence, and in return, it allows you to react quickly under pressure.
STARTING FIVE PACK AVAILABLE FOR HOME SEC GAMES
The Tennessee Ticket Office is offering a “Starting 5 Pack” that allows fans to attend their choice of five SEC home game for just $50.
Fans who take advantage of the promotion can select tickets to the Volunteers’ home conference clashes against Texas A&M (Jan. 11), Auburn (Jan. 15), Arkansas (Jan. 22), Ole Miss (Jan. 29), South Carolina (Feb. 8), Florida (Feb. 11), Georgia (Feb. 18), Vanderbilt (March 1) and Missouri (March 8).
All tickets will be allocated in the 300 level of Thompson-Boling Arena.
To purchase, visit the Tennessee Ticket Office during business hours, log onto www.UTtix.com or call 1-800-332-8657.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)