Tennessee is set for its first of three games in a six day stretch as the unbeaten Vols host Tennessee Tech to Thompson-Boling Arena Friday night.
It’s Tennessee’s fourth game of the young season at home for Tennessee. The Vols have looked good, especially considering the lack of preseason scrimmages. The adjustment to a COVID-19 hasn’t been without adjustments for the Vols though, including not having the home court advantage that makes Thompson-Boling Arena special.
"First couple games certainly are unique with COVID-19 and missing practices and trying to figure out how to keep your guys fresh and skilled and making plays,” assistant coach Desmond Oliver said. “It has been different; everything has been different. The first game against Colorado with no fans, you come out and you really get a taste of it. It is one thing watching it on TV but, when you come out, it has more of a scrimmage feel to it, which our guys are not used to. … I think trying to adjust to that is as important as any opponent. Adjusting to the fact that our fan base is not going to be there, and we just have to find ways to continue to bring our own energy."
Tennessee Tech is off to a poor start to the season, losing its first seven games, including four by double digits. Two of the Golden Eagles losses came to high major teams Xavier and Indiana and they were missing key pieces due to COVID-19 contact tracing protocols.
"Tennessee Tech is a team right now that we are still trying to figure out,” Oliver said. “Their roster hasn't been complete most of the season. They have played four or five games with some key guys that were missing, so their record is a bit deceiving. They are a lot better than what their record indicates. Their top two players just came back a game or two ago and they are night and day different as a team. They are more explosive, they score better, they are more athletic.”
Those two guards are sophomore Jr. Clay and junior Damaria Franklin. Clay misses the Eagles’ three games and Franklin missed the first five.
Since his return, Clay is averaging 13.8 points, 4.3 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Clay is the undoubted leader of Tennessee Tech, setting the tone both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball
Franklin, a Chicago native, has scored 25 points in his two games this season. Franklin has scored at an efficient rate, making 48% of his shots, but Franklin is only 20% from behind the arc this season.
Rounding up the bulk of the Golden Eagles’ scoring is guard Keishawn Davidson and forward Kenny White Jr. Davidson leads Tennessee Tech in minutes per game, tallying just over 30. The Murfreesboro, Tennessee native also scores 10.1 points per game on 47% shooting.
White, a true freshman, will have the tall task of matching up with Tennessee forwards Yves Pons and John Fulkerson. The 6-foot-7 forward has had a strong start to his college career despite his team’s struggles. White is averaging 9.1 points and four rebounds per game.
Amadou Sylla will help provide post defense and rebounding as the strong, 6-foot-8, junior leads the Golden Eagles with 5.9 rebounds per game.
The Vols are heavy 29.5 point favorites entering the matchup and will look to build on their success in a 41-point victory over Appalachian State Tuesday.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game will be streamed live on SEC Network+.