Tennessee's first ever SEC meeting with Texas A&M produced the longest game in program history – a four-overtime, 93-85 victory in College Station last season.
This time around, the Vols are hoping to wrap up the win in regulation. The Aggies will visit Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday for a 6 p.m. tipoff in the second SEC game of the season for each squad and UT's home conference opener.
"I don't want this next game with them to be four overtimes," said Jordan McRae, who played a whopping 56 minutes in last year's thriller. "I'm getting a little older. I don't think I have the energy for that anymore."
Both teams are looking to improve to 2-0 in conference play and sport identical 10-4 records. But bad November losses to Missouri State and SMU have pushed the Aggies back to 162nd in ESPN's RPI rating, while the Vols sit at No. 48.
Texas A&M started its conference slate with a 69-53 home win over Arkansas on Wednesday.
"They are a talented team," UT head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "They have had some ups and downs, but they have a flow going right now. They had a big win against Arkansas and scored the ball very well."
While Texas A&M's scoring caught Martin's eye, he has also come off impressed with his opponent's defense. The Aggies rank second in the SEC, giving up 60.1 points per game – one spot ahead of the Vols.
"(The Aggies) are one of the better defensive teams in our league," Martin said, "so we have to do a great job of keeping our spacing, moving the ball, pounding the ball inside, crashing the class, and trying to score in transition. When a team does such a good job with half-court defense, you want to try to get baskets in transition."
The Vols somewhat salvaged another unimpressive non-conference slate with dominating performances against Morehead State, Virginia and Tusculum. They won each by an average of more than 32 points per game.
That momentum – built in response of a crushing home loss to North Carolina State on Dec. 18 – carried into UT's conference opener. The Vols dismantled LSU, 68-50 on the road Tuesday to start SEC play.
Winning on the road early in the SEC season hasn't been a strong point of this team in recent seasons, so getting off to a strong start was much coveted for McRae and the Vols.
"It definitely feels good to get that first road win out of the way, rather than it come later this month or in February," McRae said.
"We were allowed to laugh and talk on the plane this time."