Tennessee faces another early season test on Friday night as they take on the No. 20 Georgetown Hoyas in Washington, D.C.
The two schools are playing in conjuncture with the sixth annual SEC-Big East Challenge.
Tennessee (4-1) is coming off a 77-50 victory over Oakland, snapping a two-year losing streak to the Grizzlies. Defense was the hallmark of the Vols' night as they held Oakland to 28.6 percent shooting from the floor, production that junior guard Trae Golden says will serve Tennessee well for the rest of the season.
"It's the identity of our team," Golden said. "(Oakland) was a good win for us, so if we can just continue that energy into Friday and going into next week we'll be fine down the road."
Meanwhile, the Hoyas, whose only loss came against No. 1 Indiana, defeated Mt. Saint Mary's 72-50 on Saturday. Their balanced attack features four players averaging over 10 points per game, most notably sophomore forward Otto Porter, one of 50 players selected to this season's Naismith Watch List. Georgetown averages 70.2 points per game on 50.2 percent shooting, so the Vols' defensive play will once again play a pivotal role if they hope to knock off the Hoyas.
"I think we've improved on our help defense a lot," Golden said. "They definitely have a big team, but size doesn't really matter. If we guard our positions, we're going to be fine."
Georgetown traditionally has a reputation of being a very physical team with talented players and a long-standing history that the Tennessee players know and respect. This Georgetown team is no exception, although they do feature one wrinkle: four of their five starters are 6-foot-8 or taller.
"I think the things they bring to the table is they have the length and athleticism," Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "I don't think I've ever seen a Princeton style offense with four guys that are over 6-foot-8 and can pass, shoot, dribble and make plays."
For us, we have to do a tremendous job of boxing out and a great job of post defense with our guards."
Technically played at a neutral site, the game will be played in Washington D.C.'s Verizon Center, and the crowd figures to be decidedly pro-Hoyas. Tennessee has yet to play a traditional road game, but Golden says he's ready for a hostile crowd.
"There's going to be more Georgetown fans there than Tennessee fans," Golden said. "We just need to make sure we're locked in and ready to play. It would be a big win for our program and we're looking forward to getting a win there. If we focus and execute our game plan it's something we can do."
While the season is still young, a strong non-conference win against a school like Georgetown would figure to bolster Tennessee's chances of making the NCAA Tournament, a feat the Vols fell short of last season.
"You don't really think about that," Golden said. "But down the road there is the NCAA Tournament and things like that. We're just going to go in and get a win Friday night and let everything else just play itself out."