No. 17 Tennessee finds itself in an unusual position just seven games into the season -- mired in a three-game losing streak.
The Volunteers will try to snap that skid on Tuesday night when they open a three-game homestand against George Mason in Knoxville, Tenn.
After beginning the campaign with four consecutive wins, including a victory in the opener of the Maui Invitational, Tennessee (4-3) lost to then-No. 2 Purdue and then-No. 1 Kansas in the Hawaii-based tournament.
In their most recent outing -- last Wednesday's meeting with then No. 17 North Carolina -- the Volunteers trailed by 22 at halftime and eventually trimmed the deficit to single digits in an ACC/SEC Challenge game.
Despite outscoring the Tar Heels 53-39 in the second half and getting a career-high 37 points from Dalton Knecht, Tennessee came up short at the end, losing 100-92 and falling for the third consecutive time.
To make matters worse, Knecht sprained his ankle after scoring 22 of his points in the second half.
While Knecht did walk back to the bus postgame, his status is still up in the air for Tuesday's game. In addition, the issue surrounding Santiago Vescovi also is concerning.
Volunteers coach Rick Barnes benched the fifth-year senior for the majority of the UNC game, putting him on the court for just 14 minutes.
"I mean, I just told the team that the one thing that I'm really, really guilty of is complacency," an irritated Barnes said following the defeat. "I can't stand it. I don't care who it is."
Vescovi was held scoreless and attempted just one field goal in the loss. He had one rebound, two assists and two steals while committing two turnovers and four fouls.
"To be honest with you, (if) we hadn't got back the game he wouldn't have played," Barnes said. "I don't care who it is. I've been like that my whole career. I think it's a privilege to play this game."
Barnes said he expects much more out of his talented guard.
"We can't score 92 points and him not have a point," Barnes said after Vescovi was held without a point for the second time in his 121-game Volunteers career. "I mean, we got to know what we're going to get."
Meanwhile, George Mason (7-1) arrives in Rocky Top with plenty of momentum after a strong start to the new campaign.
Currently riding a four-game winning streak, the Patriots just beat Toledo 86-77 on Saturday in their first road game. Amari Kelly finished with a career-high 24 points for George Mason.
A graduate transfer who played two seasons at both Duquesne and UNC Wilmington, the 6-foot-9 Kelly went 8-for-10 from the field and totaled 10 rebounds, two blocks and two assists.
"Amari is a huge part of what's made us effective this season," Patriots coach Tony Skinn said. "What I expected from him is exactly what he's accomplishing.
"He's a threat down low, he's making plays for guys and he's able to make the right read efficiently through double teams."
George Mason shot 51.7 percent from the field and made 8 of 15 shots from long range (53.3 percent) against Toledo.
Tuesday marks the second all-time meeting between the teams. The Patriots beat Tennessee 58-55 in Fairfax, Va., back on March 17, 2004.
--Field Level Media
Copyright 2024 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.