No. 13 Memphis, No. 19 Tennessee renew rivalry
Holiday tournaments and on-court mismatches pervade nonconference schedules of many Top 25-caliber teams. But there are also meetings between natural rivals, such as Memphis and Tennessee, to add some spice to the holiday hoops schedule.
The 13th-ranked Tigers (8-1) will visit the No. 19 Volunteers (7-1) in Knoxville on Saturday in the second game of a three-game contract between the teams.
Tennessee won 102-92 at Memphis last year, when bad blood and trash talking surfaced late in the game after the Volunteers accused the Tigers of flopping. Memory of that will add intensity Saturday.
"We definitely had this circled on the schedule," Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said Monday on his weekly radio show. "It's a rivalry game first of all, and then everything that happened last year flows right into this weekend."
Hardaway and Tennessee coach Rick Barnes, who traded barbs following last year's game, have been focused on the upcoming battle this week.
"Penny has done a great job coaching those guys because it's not easy when you have to start with as many young players as he's had," Barnes said Tuesday. "They are a group of guys that plays hard. They're gonna make you handle the ball, and they do a lot of good things."
Freshmen forwards Precious Achiuwa (13.9 points, 9.6 rebounds per game) and D.J. Jeffries (12.0, 4.4) -- members of the country's top recruiting class -- as well as sophomore guard Alex Lomax (9.1 points, 4.6 assists per game) have helped lead the way.
"They've been putting themselves in position to help the team in all categories," Hardaway said of the three players. "We need them pushing the basketball, getting assists, getting rebounds and guarding 1 through 5 on switches."
Achiuwa and Jeffries have been asked to own the paint while freshman guards Boogie Ellis (9.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg) and Damion Baugh (4.9 ppg, 3.7 apg) continue to adjust to the college game.
The Tigers will be without freshman guard Lester Quinones (broken hand) and freshman 7-foot-1 center James Wiseman (19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg), who played three games before being suspended 12 games as a result of his mom accepting $11,500 from Hardaway for moving expenses in 2017. Wiseman is due to return at South Florida on Jan. 12.
"They're definitely a different team (without Wiseman) because you have a guy of that caliber," Barnes said. "But I don't think they've missed a beat in terms of what they want to do and how they're going to play."
The Tigers are coming off a 65-57 victory at Alabama-Birmingham on Dec. 7. The Volunteers haven't played since beating Florida A&M 72-43 at home on Dec. 4.
Tennessee will be seeking to extend Division I's longest current home winning streak to 32 games.
UT's starting unit consists of guards Jordan Bowden (13.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Lamonte Turner (13.8 ppg, 7.6 apg), Josiah-Jordan James (6.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg), swingman Yves Pon (12.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and forward John Fulkerson (11.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg).
Memphis and Tennessee will meet for the 27th time and just the second time both teams have been ranked, the only other being a 66-62 win by then-No. 2 Tennessee over top-ranked Memphis on Feb. 23, 2008. The Vols hold a 15-11 edge in the series.
A win would give Barnes career victory No. 700. He also coached George Mason, Providence, Clemson and Texas.
The teams will play next season at neutral-site Nashville.
--Field Level Media
Updated December 13, 2019