Tide rolls into Knoxville as No. 3 Tennessee shoots for 12th straight
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Perhaps the biggest obstacle standing in the way of Tennessee's continued dominance is complacency.
The third-ranked Volunteers look to keep the internal fire going in a bid to win 12 in a row for the first time in 42 seasons Saturday against visiting Alabama.
From the onset, 2018-19 had the potential to be a special season for Tennessee (15-1, 4-0 in SEC). To date, the script is being followed.
Led by stars Grant Williams (18.8 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, 3.9 assists per game) and Admiral Schofield (17.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg), the Vols feature six players averaging double-figure points and rank among the national leaders in scoring (87.1 ppg) and field-goal percentage (51.6).
They've won their last eight games by an average margin of 23.1 points - two by at least 43 - while shooting 54.9 percent. The Vols also showed off their depth Tuesday as reserves Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden combined for 40 points in a 106-87 home rout of Arkansas. It was the first time since February 2008 that they scored more than 100 in a SEC game.
However, coach Rick Barnes was not entirely pleased that the Razorbacks outscored Tennessee by two points in the second half and showed more intensity than his team down the stretch. Barnes doesn't want the Vols to become their own worst enemy amid a time of great success.
"We have talked long and hard about where we are, and forgetting the rankings, and this and that," Barnes said. "Everywhere these guys go, people are talking about them, and we have to put that aside, and totally lock in to doing what we need to do to get better. I don't care what the score is; you play the game. You respect the game, you respect your opponent and your teammates, and you play the game the way it's supposed to be played."
A victory this weekend would have the Vols on their longest winning stretch since the 1976-77 season. And after top-ranked Duke lost to Syracuse this week and should undefeated No. 2 Michigan fall at Wisconsin earlier Saturday, then Barnes' group could be the nation's new No. 1 team come Monday.
However, that should not be on the minds of Barnes' squad as they also look to extend their home winning streak to 19 games. Especially, since Tennessee has lost seven of the last 10 against Alabama, including 78-50 on the road in last season's lone meeting between the schools.
The Vols shot a season-low 27.6 percent in that contest while the Crimson Tide made 57.1 percent of their attempts.
Alabama (11-5, 2-2 in SEC), which has home wins over Arizona and Kentucky this season, avoided a third consecutive defeat with Wednesday's 70-60 victory at Missouri. Avery Johnson Jr. scored a game-high 14 points off the bench and Donta Hall added 12 with 11 rebounds as the Tide claimed their first SEC road victory.
"We are thankful we were able to go on the road and get this win," Alabama coach Avery Johnson told the school's official website.
"It's on to the next one."
Hall (11.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg), who leads the SEC with eight double-doubles, had 17 points and pulled down 11 boards against Tennessee last season.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 17, 2019