GAME NOTES: The Tennessee Volunteers continue their three-game homestand at Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday night, as they square off against The Citadel Bulldogs in preliminary round action in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, with the event concluding in the Bahamas from Nov. 28-30.
The Citadel opened the season by dropping both of its contests in the All- Military Classic (82-71 to VMI, 84-69 to Army). Since then, however, the Bulldogs have pulled even at 2-2 with back-to-back wins at home, taking down Presbyterian last Tuesday (82-68) before defeating North Greenville on Saturday (83-53).
Tennessee began its campaign with a tricky road matchup at Xavier, losing the tight contest, 67-63, but it redeemed itself on Saturday with its first win of the season, claiming a 74-65 decision at home versus USC Upstate. The Vols will play intrastate rival Tennessee State on Friday night before taking part in the Battle 4 Atlantis next weekend in the Bahamas.
The Vols have beaten the Bulldogs in all four previous meetings, most recently winning in December of 2011, 86-55.
The Citadel shot 44.6 percent from the field in its latest win, including 12- of-26 from 3-point range, but the biggest story came at the defensive end where it forced North Greenville into more turnovers (20) than it had field goals (17). Ashton Moore was the catalyst in the triumph, making 5-of-7 shots from beyond the arc on his way to 21 points, while also finding time to get his teammates involved with nine assists. Matt Van Scyoc was also impressive with 19 points, while Quinton Marshall came off the bench to tally 10 points. It has been a solid start for the Bulldogs offensively, as they net 76.2 points per game, but they have been hindered by turnovers (more than 15 per contest). Van Scyoc (18.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) has been nearly automatic from the foul line, draining 26-of-28 attempts (.929). Brian White (15.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.5 bpg) is a mainstay in the frontcourt, while Moore (13.0 ppg) hands out 6.0 assists per contest.
The Vols' home opener wasn't the dominating effort that they had hoped for, as they trailed USC Upstate by seven at the half, but they pulled ahead after intermission thanks largely to a 14-of-15 showing at the foul line in the second stanza. Even though the team shot just 35.1 percent from the field, four players scored in double figures, led by Jordan McRae with 18 points. Jarnell Stokes posted a monster double-double with 17 points and 18 rebounds, although it could have been an even bigger night had he not struggled from the field (5-of-17). Jeronne Maymon (15 points, 11 rebounds) was also strong in the frontcourt, while Antonio Barton chipped in with 13 points. It hasn't been a great start for Tennessee offensively, as the club is making field goals at just a 38.6 percent rate. McRae expects to be one of the SEC's leading scorers this season, and he is setting a good pace early with 20.5 points per game. Few teams can compete with the Vols down low, as Maymon (11.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg) and Stokes (10.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.5 bpg) are clones in the paint, both standing 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds.
It's only a matter of time before the Vols' lackluster shooting turns around, and even if they can't find their stroke in this one, they have such a big advantage in the paint that they should be able to power past The Citadel without much trouble.
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