No. 7 Vols get 2nd shot against elite foe
KNOXVILLE, TENN. — Tennessee wants to capitalize on a second chance to beat an elite opponent as the Volunteers adapt to the higher expectations accompanying their Top 10 ranking.
The seventh-ranked Vols (6-1) let a golden opportunity slip away two weeks ago when they squandered a second-half lead in an 87-81 overtime loss to No. 2 Kansas. They’re hoping the lessons learned that night pay off Sunday when they play No. 1 Gonzaga (9-0) at the Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix.
“I thought we were a little too emotional at the beginning of that (Kansas) game,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Hopefully, we won’t be like that going forward.”
The Tennessee-Gonzaga game is part of a doubleheader that has No. 6 Nevada (8-0) facing Grand Canyon (5-3).
This game represents one more chance for Tennessee to make a statement and show it’s a legitimate contender to make a run at a Final Four for the first time in program history.
Tennessee opened the year No. 6 in the Top 25 for its highest preseason ranking. Tennessee returned its top six scorers from a team that won a share of the Southeastern Conference regularseason title last year.
The Vols showed their potential last month by taking a nine-point, secondhalf lead over Kansas in the NIT Season Tip-Off in NewYork. Nowthey want to prove they can make the winning plays down the stretch against a national power.
“The thing that separated us and Kansas was the execution later in the game and also just understanding the game plan, us knowing our roles and executing our game plan is the biggest thing,” Tennessee forward Grant Williams said. “That’s what a veteran team should do. We didn’t look like a veteran team in the Kansas game.”