No. 7 Tennessee will look to win its eighth straight game when it faces No. 13 Maryland in the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational on Sunday in New York.
The Volunteers (8-1) are coming off an 84-49 win over visiting Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, while the Terrapins (8-1) suffered their first loss of the season in a 64-59 setback at Wisconsin on Tuesday.
Tennessee’s Tyreke Key scored a game-high 17 points, while Julian Phillips added 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds against the Colonels. Zakai Zeigler chipped in 13 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals and Olivier Nkamhoua finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
While Tennessee struggled at times offensively, finishing 24 of 60 (40 percent) from the field and just 5 of 21 (23.8 percent) from 3-point range, the Volunteers excelled defensively.
Tennessee forced Eastern Kentucky to shoot an abysmal 15 of 68 (22.1 percent) from the field, including 6 for 35 (17.1 percent) from beyond the arc. The Volunteers outrebounded the Colonels 56-40.
“We are getting closer,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “We are not where we can be. We still need some guys to get a little bit more serious about it. We keep talking about we can’t have any weak links in the chain. We have talked about it enough: You guys can’t keep making the same mistakes.”
The Volunteers also could be bolstered on Sunday with the expected return of the team’s second-leading scorer, Santiago Vescovi (12 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.4 apg), whose sprained left shoulder has sidelined him the past two games.
The Terrapins lost for the first time under first-year coach Kevin Willard because it fell apart down the stretch.
After taking a 43-42 lead on Jahmir Young’s jumper with 11:24 left, the Terrapins missed 15 of their final 18 shots from the field during which the Badgers built a 58-47 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“I felt like it was our movement,” said Young, who scored a game-high 17 points. “They were in the gaps because we weren’t moving. Yeah, they were just walling us off. They weren’t letting us get easy baskets in the lane, letting us get all the way to the rim.”
Julian Reese had 10 points, with Donta Scott adding nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds for the Terrapins.
Wisconsin went 17 of 27 from the free-throw line, while the Terrapins shot just 12 free throws, making seven. Maryland shot 21 of 55 (38.2 percent) from the field for the game but went just 9 of 27 (33.3 percent) in the second half.
“I think everyone gets away with murder at home,” Maryland coach Kevin Willard. “They are excellent defensively. You have to give them a lot of credit for them taking us out of our offense.”
Maryland, which was coming off a 71-66 home win over then-No. 16 Illinois, entered the game averaging 80.8 points per game and outscoring opponents by 19.8 points.
“We have a lot of guys that are kind of going through this the first time, that haven’t played the Wisconsins,” Willard said. “You can show film and you can talk to them about it, but I think — and Jahmir will tell you — until you kind of experience it and go through it a little bit … again, their physicality, even on the offensive (end), kind of caught us by surprise.”
–Field Level Media