Vols basketball not judging Texas A&M by its record

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Tennessee coach Rick Barnes previews the Vols' game Saturday against Texas A&M Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes talks with his team during a time out in the game against Auburn on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. (Photo: Saul Young/News Sentinel)

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A week ago, Tennessee basketball and Texas A&M sat in a surprising position as winless teams in SEC play after strong non-conference showings.

The teams since have gone opposite directions: The Vols evened their record at 2-2, while the injury-hampered Aggies have suffered two one-point losses as they continue to chase their first SEC win heading into Saturday’s clash in Knoxville.

“I think anybody in basketball knows that if you’ve got a team that is ranked No. 5 in the country, they are capable of going on a run and winning the rest of their games,” Vols coach Rick Barnes said. “I think anybody can figure that out. I think our guys understand that. I think they now are starting to understand that every night in conference play. They should have already know it, but you’d like to think they realize that every night is going to be a battle.”

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Vanderbilt guard Larry Austin Jr. (3) reacts to defeating Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Jordan Bowden (23) and forward Admiral Schofield (5) react to defeating Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield (5) reacts to their victory over Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt guard Saben Lee (0) passes past Vanderbilt guard Saben Lee (0) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes watches his team face Vanderbilt during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard James Daniel III (3) advances past Vanderbilt guard Payton Willis (1) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) shoots against Vanderbilt during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew disputes a call during the first half against Tennessee at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt guard Payton Willis (1) shoots past Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew watches his team face Tennessee during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield (5) collides with Vanderbilt guard Maxwell Evans (10) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt center Djery Baptiste (12) shoots past Vanderbilt guard Maxwell Evans (10) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) shoots over Vanderbilt center Djery Baptiste (12) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield (5) maneuvers past Vanderbilt guard Payton Willis (1) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Chris Darrington (32) is guarded by Vanderbilt guard/forward Matthew Fisher-Davis (5) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes watches his team face Vanderbilt during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt guard Payton Willis (1) advances through Tennessee guard James Daniel III (3) and forward John Fulkerson (10) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) battles Vanderbilt forward Clevon Brown (15) and forward Jeff Roberson (11) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt guard Payton Willis (1) advances with Tennessee guard Jordan Bone (0) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt guard/forward Matthew Fisher-Davis (5) battles Tennessee guard Jordan Bowden (23) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Jordan Bone (0) advances past Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance (13) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Jordan Bone (0) shoots over Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance (13) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt forward Clevon Brown (15) guards Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) during the first half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Jordan Bowden (23) guards Vanderbilt guard/forward Matthew Fisher-Davis (5) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance (13) reacts after being fouled during the second half against Tennessee at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Lamonte Turner (1) guards Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance (13) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt forward Clevon Brown (15) is guarded by Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) and guard Jordan Bowden (23) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt guard/forward Matthew Fisher-Davis (5) battles Tennessee guard Jordan Bowden (23) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt forward Clevon Brown (15) battles Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Lamonte Turner (1) advances against Vanderbilt during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes watches his team face Vanderbilt during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew watches his team face Tennessee during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance (13) battles Tennessee guard Jordan Bone (0) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt guard/forward Joe Toye (2) shoots over Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield (5) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Lamonte Turner (1) battles Vanderbilt guard Maxwell Evans (10) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) shoots over Vanderbilt forward Clevon Brown (15) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Jordan Bowden (23) moves past Vanderbilt guard/forward Matthew Fisher-Davis (5) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) shoots over Vanderbilt forward Clevon Brown (15) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Jordan Bowden (23) scores against Vanderbilt during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Vanderbilt guard/forward Matthew Fisher-Davis (5) gains control of the ball against Tennessee during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Jordan Bone (0) shoots over Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance (13) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield (5) battles Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance (13) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Jordan Bone (0) signals to teammates against Vanderbilt during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean Tennessee guard Jordan Bowden (23) battles Vanderbilt guard/forward Matthew Fisher-Davis (5) during the second half at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.  Andrew Nelles / Tennessean

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The No. 23 Vols (11-4, 2-2 SEC) have won back-to-back league games after losing their first two to open the SEC slate. The test now is a dangerous Texas A&M (11-5, 0-4) team that surely is desperate to snag a conference win Saturday (6 p.m. ET, SEC Network) after it was ranked in the Top 5 entering SEC play.

The Aggies, who started the season 11-1, haven’t had a complete roster much lately. Injuries and illness sidelined forward Robert Williams, guards Duane Wilson and Admon Gilder battled injuries and forward DJ Hogg was suspended for three games. Williams, Gilder and Hogg all played against Kentucky on Tuesday, while Wilson has missed the past three games.

“They’ve had some different things that have happened to them that they’ve had to deal with during the early part of the schedule,” Barnes said. “Long way to go.”

Barnes stressed the inside, physical post game will be a test against Texas A&M, which often starts three players 6-foot-9 or taller.

Sophomore forward Grant Williams and junior forward Admiral Schofield are coming off two straight strong showings for the Vols. Williams scored a career-high 37 points in a win against Vanderbilt on Tuesday, while Schofield has played his best basketball at Tennessee in the past two games, Barnes said.

 (Photo: The Associated Press)

Schofield scored 20 points against Kentucky, then followed it up with 22 against Vanderbilt. He also grabbed nine rebounds in each game and had a season-high four assists against the Wildcats.

“I just think he’s gone about it in a different way,” Barnes said. “Where I think, honestly, in some ways he’s thought more about getting his teammates ready.”

The Vols continue to chase more consistency, especially in finding a steady third scoring option on a nightly basis. It’s a role filled mostly by Jordan Bowden, while Lamonte Turner, James Daniel III and Jordan Bone all have had stints in that spot.

“We’ve got to get more consistency from a couple of our starters,” Barnes said. “We’ve got to hope that Grant, Admiral, Bowden and those guys can take it to another level.”

Tennessee is pursuing a three-game winning streak in SEC play, which would give the Vols a winning league record before heading on the road to Missouri and South Carolina next week.

“I think that you look around early in conference play and you will see some teams that are surprises,” Barnes said. “You’ll see some teams that you thought were going to be terrific and they’ve gotten off to a slow start. That’s why you play the whole year. We are just getting started in conference play.”

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Tennessee sophomore Grant Williams recaps the Vols' win against Kentucky Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

Milestone

Saturday marks a major milestone in Barnes’ career, as he will coach in his 1,000th career game as a head coach.

“It just means that God’s blessed me with a chance to do this for a long time,” said Barnes, who is his 31st year as a head coach. “I’ve worked with some great coaches, had terrific players and worked at some great universities.”

Barnes has a career mark of 646-353, with a 42-39 record in his two-plus seasons at Tennessee. He also has been the head coach at George Mason, Providence, Clemson and Texas.

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Rick Barnes: Vols have to be team to 'finish possessions' | 1:47

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes meets with the media Monday before the Vols face Vanderbilt on Tuesday. Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Grant Williams: Vols got identity back in second half | 2:07

Tennessee sophomore Grant Williams recaps the Vols‘ win against Kentucky Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Rick Barnes praises 'tremendous' Vols crowd against Kentucky | 1:01

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes recaps the Vols‘ win against Kentucky Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Kyle Alexander: Vols had a tough film session after Auburn loss | 0:59

Tennessee center Kyle Alexander met with the media before the Vols face Kentucky on Saturday Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Rick Barnes: Vols were outworked by Auburn | 1:36

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes recaps the Vols‘ loss to Auburn on Tuesday Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Grant Williams: Vols are 'hard team to beat' when Jordan Bone plays well | 1:15

Tennessee forward Grant Williams recaps the Vols‘ win at Wake Forest Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Rick Barnes praises bench players after win at Wake Forest | 1:42

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes recaps the Vols‘ win at Wake Forest on Saturday Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Grant Williams: Vols need to be tougher rebounders | 1:22

Tennessee forward Grant Williams recaps the Vols‘ 78-73 loss to North Carolina Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Rick Barnes: Vols failed to put North Carolina away | 2:55

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes recaps the Vols‘ 78-73 loss to North Carolina Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Rick Barnes: Defense was OK in win against Lipscomb | 1:22

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes recaps the Vols‘ win against Lipscomb Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Rick Barnes: Vols being ranked 'wasn’t our focus' | 2:00

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes talks the Vols being ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2010 Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Police take down man amid 'Fire Currie' chants at UT basketball game | 0:09

A video taken by Twitter user appears to show police throwing a man to the ground at a UT men‘s basketball game against Mercer in Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday evening. Few details about the incident are available. Submitted / Tyler Fambrough

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Rick Barnes: 'Fire Currie' chants 'disappointing,' took focus off basketball team | 1:58

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes met with the media after the Vols beat Mercer on Wednesday night Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Grant Williams: Vols '10 times better' defensively this season | 2:04

Tennessee forward Grant Williams recaps the Vols‘ win against High Point Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

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CLOSEVIDEOS: TENNESSEE VOLS BASKETBALL 2017-18 Rick Barnes surprised by Tennessee's hot start Tuesday | 2:00

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes recaps the Vols‘ 83-54 win against High point Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

15 of 15

  • Rick Barnes: Vols have to be team to 'finish possessions'
  • Grant Williams: Vols got identity back in second half
  • Rick Barnes praises 'tremendous' Vols crowd against Kentucky
  • Kyle Alexander: Vols had a tough film session after Auburn loss
  • Rick Barnes: Vols were outworked by Auburn
  • Grant Williams: Vols are 'hard team to beat' when Jordan Bone plays well
  • Rick Barnes praises bench players after win at Wake Forest
  • Grant Williams: Vols need to be tougher rebounders
  • Rick Barnes: Vols failed to put North Carolina away
  • Rick Barnes: Defense was OK in win against Lipscomb
  • Rick Barnes: Vols being ranked 'wasn’t our focus'
  • Police take down man amid 'Fire Currie' chants at UT basketball game
  • Rick Barnes: 'Fire Currie' chants 'disappointing,' took focus off basketball team
  • Grant Williams: Vols '10 times better' defensively this season
  • Rick Barnes surprised by Tennessee's hot start Tuesday

 

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