No. 10 Tennessee looks to stay undefeated against Appalachian State
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Amid the cloud of COVID-19 that delayed the start of its season, Tennessee has finally got a chance to build some rhythm.
The No. 10 Volunteers (2-0) look to stay undefeated when they host Appalachian State (4-1) on Tuesday night in Knoxville, Tenn.
Tennessee had its first four scheduled games of 2020-21 season cancelled, and five total, due to the coronavirus pandemic -- including games versus No. 1 Gonzaga and Notre Dame. The Volunteers finally took the court for game action on Dec. 8, posting a 56-47 home win against Colorado and followed with Saturday's 65-56 triumph over Cincinnati.
"You don't know who you're going to play or where," said the Vols' John Fulkerson, who has totaled team highs of 26 points and 15 rebounds in those two games. "So, you just have to get as many games under your belt as you can. That's going to help a lot come SEC and postseason play.
"So, we just need game experience and experience playing with one another."
Through two games, the verdict seems far from set on what to expect from Tennessee this season. The Vols have shot just 33.9 percent and averaged 60.5 points in their two games. On the flipside, they allowed an average of 51.5 points and 26 percent shooting from 3-point range while forcing 40 turnovers against the Buffaloes and Bearcats.
"As a team, we can definitely be one of the best defensive teams in the nation," guard Josiah-Jordan James, who has six steals, said. "We have the depth. We have the athleticism. We have the mindset to do it."
That should present a huge challenge for Appalachian State, which is shooting 45.8 percent from the field while off to its best start since 1993-94. However, half of the Mountaineers' wins have come against programs outside of Division I. Their most significant victory thus far on the young season came Friday, 61-57 at Charlotte.
Adrian Delph (13.6 ppg) had a season-high 21 points as Appalachian State overcame a 35-26 deficit early in the second half to win its second consecutive contest. The Mountaineers held Charlotte to 34.8 percent shooting in the second half, while shooting 45 percent to rally for what can be deemed as a statement win --at least for the time being.
"Really, really proud of our team," Appalachian State coach Dustin Kerns said on the school's postgame radio broadcast. "This win will do a lot for our team as we head to Tennessee ... That's the kind of game we want to be part of."
Appalachian State is 0-5 all-time against the Volunteers. However, these programs last faced each other in November 2016 -- a game Tennessee won 103-94.
The Mountaineers have also lost 18 in a row against ranked opponents since winning at then-No. 25 Charlotte on Nov. 24, 1997. Their most recent matchup against a ranked team came versus then-No. 23 Purdue in November 2018.
--Field Level Media
Updated December 14, 2020