No. 7 Vols get 2nd shot against elite foe

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - By Steve Megargee

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.”

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