Tonight, Tennessee basketball welcomes Texas A&M to Thompson-Boling Arena to resume SEC play after a loss to Kansas last time out.
The Vols played well, but the Jayhawks were able to clinch the 74-68 win in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
Here are some story lines to know.
Last season, Fulkerson played a supporting role, occupying the eighth-man spot. A core four players — Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, Jordan Bone and Kyle Alexander — started every game, while Lamonte Turner, Yves Pons and Jordan Bowden rotated the final spot in the starting lineup. Fulkerson never got the start, but played in 36 of Tennessee’s 37 games, averaging 3.1 points and 2.6 rebounds a game.
This season has been much different for Fulkerson, who is now a fixture in the starting lineup and arguably the Vols’ best player in recent weeks. This season, Fulkerson has been averaging 11.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game overall and 11.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in conference play.
In the Kansas game, Fulkerson continued his stellar play with 15 points and 12 rebounds, his third double-double in the past five games for Tennessee.
"We were all really happy with (Fulkerson) Saturday,” Vols head coach Rick Barnes said. “We knew going into the game Saturday that we were going to go head up against Azubuike and we were going to get him the ball and make him play and go at him. He did a fabulous job, he really did. He did everything we asked him to do. John is getting to a point now where he understands his mistakes, which with some guys it takes a long time.”
Pons and Bowden
Pons and Bowden have also been huge contributors for Tennessee. The pair were the top scores for the Vols against Kansas with 24 and 19 points, respectively.
Pons has played especially well on the defense end, blocking 23 shots in the seven games that Tennessee has played in 2020. The Fuveau, France native has also blocked at least one shot in every game this season.
“I like to think Yves can continue this,” Barnes said, “and move forward because there's so much more that I think he can do too. One thing about him is that he is going to work and doing what he has to do. He's getting better, he's getting better at playing around the rim, playing quicker and getting off the ground quicker.”
Bowden averged 15.8 points in the Vols’ last four games, but all of the Knoxville, TN, native’s 19 points came in the Tennessee’s failed second half comeback.
"He was really good, he really was,” Barnes said. “I think the fact that he sat in the first half a lot probably gave him a chance to even see it more. We came in and in the second half he did a lot of good things.”
Tennessee will be looking continue a few runs when they tipoff against the Aggies. With a win, both the home winning streak and SEC winning streak would be extended to three games. Matchup-wise, the Vols have won the past three meetings against Texas A&M and are hoping to add a fourth. Finally, Tennessee will be attempting to win their fifth straight matchup against a team from the State of Texas.
“They are very similar to where we are this year,” Barnes said. “The teams we've beaten in the league are pretty much the same teams they've beaten. They took LSU into overtime. I know they lost a tough game Saturday. They have gotten better since the non-league ended. They are moving in the right direction.”
The Vols and the Aggies tipoff at 6:30 p.m. in Thompson-Boling arena. The game can be seen on the SEC Network and heard on the Vol Network.