GAME NOTES: The Texas A&M Aggies will wrap up a two-game homestand at Reed Arena on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Tennessee Volunteers to College Station for an SEC showdown.
Tennessee had been losers of two straight heading into its most recent game but got back on the winning track with an easy 67-48 home triumph versus Georgia on Tuesday night. The Vols are 16-10 overall this season and 7-6 in the SEC, but they have only won two of their eight road matchups.
Texas A&M has had a similar season as Tennessee, enjoying solid success overall (15-11) while experience a more up-and-down campaign in league play (6-7). The Aggies most recently downed Alabama on Thursday night, 63-48, to improve to an excellent 14-2 at home.
The Aggies edged the Vols in the first meeting this season, 57-56 in Knoxville on Jan. 11, but Tennessee still leads the all-time series, 5-2.
The Vols went into halftime of their latest tilt up by six and only added to that advantage down the stretch en route to the convincing 19-point victory. They outshot Georgia from the field, 47.2 percent to 34 percent, and held firm advantages in both the rebounding (37-30) and turnover (13-8) battles. Jarnell Stokes set the tone in the frontcourt by shooting 9-of-13 from the field for 20 points to go with 11 rebounds and three blocks. Antonio Barton came off the bench to score 12 points on 4-of-7 from 3-point range, while Jordan McRae and Josh Richardson finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Not only does Tennessee have a strong offensive attack this season, shooting 44.6 percent from the field for 72.2 ppg, but it also plays outstanding defense, allowing only 63.2 ppg on less than 42 percent shooting. It also adds to its well-rounded effort with positive margins in terms of rebounding (+8.3) and turnovers (+0.3) and a solid free-throw percentage (.707). McRae is the go-to scoring option with 19.3 ppg, having drained 62 3-pointers at a 38.3 percent rate. Stokes (14.4 ppg, 10.2 ppg, 1.0 bpg) and Jeronne Maymon (10.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg) make up a physical frontcourt duo that few teams can contend with and Richardson brings 9.5 ppg to the table.
The Aggies used a 5-0 run at the end of the first half to take a one-point lead over Alabama earlier in the week and carried that momentum into the second stanza as they pulled away for the 15-point victory. They shot a modest 41.4 percent from the field but held the Crimson Tide to only 37 percent shooting and earned advantages both on the glass (38-31) and in the turnover battle (13-8). Jamal Jones paced the effort with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field. Alex Caruso was also stellar with 14 points, while Antwan Space made up for an 0-of-4 night from the field by hauling in 12 rebounds.
Texas A&M has been able to remain competitive this season thanks to a fantastic scoring defense, which ranks second in the SEC behind only Florida in allowing just 62.3 ppg. Unfortunately its production on the offensive end of the floor has been lackluster, as they shoot a mere 42.8 percent from the field for 65.2 ppg. Jamal Jones is the only player to score in double figures with 12.8 ppg, and that number has improved to 15.8 in league play, but he's shooting less than 38 percent from the field. Kourtney Roberson is an anchor in the paint with 9.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg, while Caruso (8.3 ppg) dishes out 4.5 apg.
The Aggies have been a completely different team at home this season than they have been on the road, and against a Vols squad that has been inconsistent away from Knoxville, expect A&M to improve to .500 in SEC action.
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