The Volunteers (12-10, 4-6 SEC) will be looking for their second straight road win tonight when they play the Vanderbilt Commodores (9-13, 3-7).
The Vols, who started this season losing their first six road games, got their first road win against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Sunday, 66-61. The game marked the first game back for junior guard Trae Golden since straining his right hamstring against the Commodores on Jan. 29. He scored 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
"It felt really good," Golden said. "To be able to get the victory first and foremost, and just getting out there. I hadn't played at that pace in awhile so just to be able to get out there felt really good."
The Vols will look to sweep the season series against Vandy after they won their previous matchup 58-57. The biggest problem the Vols faced in that game was stopping sophomore guard Kedren Johnson in the second half, as he scored all 14 of his points in the half.
"We just watched film on him this morning," head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "I do not think we did a good job of keeping him in front of us in the second half (of the last game). He did a good job of using his big guys coming off those screens but I thought we gave him angles too much to get to the rim, as opposed to fighting through that ball screen and going shoulder to shoulder with him and keeping him in front of you and forcing him to shoot over you."
For this game, the Vols will have to travel to Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville to play in one of the most hostile and unique environments in all of college basketball.
"It is one of those deals where you obviously have to be good to win in that environment," Martin said. "It is a different environment so your players have to adjust, especially in the first half going away from the bench on offense. I think in those environments you obviously have to have talent, but I think you have to have a good point guard. The reason I say that is because those guys need to be able to direct traffic for you. When you are away from your bench and your coach is not right in your ear you have to be able to direct traffic, call the plays, run the offense and get you where you need to be offensively in order for you to have success on the offensive side of the ball."
With sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes, who is averaging 17.6 points and 12 rebounds per game in the last five contests, and Trae Golden seeming to be at their best, the Vols will be looking to hit their stride with a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
"There's yet to be a game where Trae was going, I was going and Jordan (McRae) was going," Stokes said. "We haven't had a game like that yet, but I think if Trae keeps playing like that and I keep playing like that it will definitely be hard to beat us."
"We're pretty confident right now," sophomore guard Josh Richardson said. "Seeing both of those guys (Golden and Stokes) play very well the other day is a big confidence booster for us. We're pretty optimistic going into this week."