Tonight's tip-off is set for 7.
A win tonight earns Tennessee (2-0) a bid to New York City for the NIT semifinals on Nov. 24. No one wants to see that happen more so than Big Apple natives Williams (The Bronx) and Harris (Dix Hills). For Tennessee to advance, however, the Big Orange must take care of the basketball. When the Vols do that, they're pretty good. When they don't, they're pretty vulnerable.
- Tennessee committed just 12 turnovers in the exhibition opener and hammered Brevard 91-42.
- Tennessee committed 25 turnovers in Exhibition No. 2 vs. Indianapolis and lost 79-64.
- Tennessee committed just 11 turnovers in the regular-season opener vs. Chattanooga and romped 82-62.
- Tennessee committed 27 turnovers Tuesday night vs. Belmont and led by one inside the final minute before eventually winning 85-76.
The Vols have a lot of new faces in the playing rotation this year, and that creates an atmosphere conducive to turnovers. That doesn't make them any more tolerable for head coach Bruce Pearl, however.
"We had 27 turnovers," he noted following Tuesday's game. "For those who have been at practice, I’ve talked about how one of our challenges is if we can handle ball pressure. We’re going to see a different level of ball pressure, a different level of physicality against Missouri State. That will be one of the most physical teams we play against."
The Bears (2-0) return all five starters from a team that won 24 games last season. They outrebounded Arkansas State 42-26 Tuesday night in posting an 80-71 win in their first-round NIT game.
Leading 69-45, Missouri State seemed on its way to a blowout win until Arkansas State used full-court pressure to make a 20-2 run that narrowed the gap to 71-65. Tennessee is long and athletic, so the Vols may press the Bears a bit tonight.
It's a safe bet that the Bears will press the turnover-prone Vols, especially if senior point guard Melvin Goins is unavailable. Slowed by soreness in his side, Goins missed the last 13 minutes of the Belmont game and is listed "doubtful" for tonight's game by Pearl.