After a season opening victory on Tuesday, Tennessee returns to action Saturday as the Vols host Cincinnati to Thompson-Boling Arena.
The 12th ranked Vols enter the game 1-0 after defeating Colorado. Cincinnati enters at 2-1.
Tennessee jumped out to a double digit first half lead in its opening win over Colorado before the Buffaloes switched to a 2-3 zone. The zone gave Tennessee's offense problems and allowed Colorado back in the game.
The Vols relied on their stifling defense in the 56-47 win holding Colorado to 33% shooting from the field. Colorado was able to find success on the boards, grabbing 12 offensive rebounds, a problem for the Vols a season ago.
“My biggest concern would still be the fact that we didn’t rebound the ball the way we need to to be the team we want to be,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said following the win. “That’s probably the biggest disappointment. We didn’t rebound the way we want to.”
Tennessee is 8.5-point favorites over the Bearcats and will be looking for revenge after falling to Cincinnati, 78-66 last season.
The Bearcats have two wins over solid mid majors, Furman and Lipscomb, and a loss to cross city rival Xavier, who will likely be ranked next week.
Leading the way for the Bobcats has been senior guard Keith WIlliams. The 6-foot-5 guard has averaged 17.3 points and 3.4 rebounds this season.
Averaging over seven points per game more than the next leading Bearcat scorer, Tennessee’s defense will likely start with Williams as it did with McKinley Wright against Colorado.
Victor Bailey Jr. and Keon Johnson traded responsibilities guarding Wright, but with Williams' height the brunt of the responsibility will likely fall to Johnson and Josiah Jordan James.
Johnson showed his defensive ability in the opener while only logging 13 minutes. Look for Johnson and fellow star freshman Jaden Springer to see their minutes increase rapidly over the next two weeks, likely starting Saturday.
“We felt tonight with Colorado they were going to force us to play experienced guys more minutes,” Barnes said. “It’s not fair to put some young guys out there in tight situations early in the year. Like I said, you don’t want to lose them with their confidence. The mistakes they made tonight, we’ll be able to look at it and learn from it. … We would have loved to play some guys more minutes and going forward we hope to do that.”
Williams’ backcourt running mate is junior point guard David DeJulis. After coming off the bench last season at Michigan, DeJulius has been a do it all guard, averaging 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and five assists a game.
In the front court is forward Rapolas Ivanauskas who transferred to Cincinnati this offseason from Colgate. The 6-foot-10 center is averaging 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Anchoring the Bearcats’ frontcourt is senior center Chris Vogt. The 7-foot-1 senior averaged 11 points per game last season after transferring from Northern Kentucky. Through three games this season, Vogt has scored 28 points and has recorded 13 rebounds and four blocks.
Tip-off is set for 12:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on the SEC Alternate Network.