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Unbeaten vs. winless: No. 8 Tennessee meets South Carolina Upstate

Unbeaten and eighth-ranked Tennessee will get in one last nonconference tuneup Wednesday when it hosts South Carolina Upstate in Knoxville.

The game against the Spartans (0-7) will be the Volunteers' second in three days, as they are coming off a 102-66 win over St. Joseph's on Monday.

"It is a quick turnaround," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. "We will scrub out this game really quick tomorrow, show some of the good, the bad and the ugly (on film). We immediately get to (USC) Upstate.

Tennessee (5-0) has been climbing in the win column and in the rankings on the backs of two things basketball coaches love -- balanced scoring and tight defense.

John Fulkerson and Victor Bailey Jr. lead Tennessee in scoring with averages of 12.2 points per game. Jaden Springer, named the SEC Freshman of the Week this week, adds 12 per game.

But against St. Joe's, six Vols scored in double figures, led by Bailey's 18 points and Santiago Vescovi's 16.

The 66 points by St. Joe's marked the first time this season that Tennessee allowed more than 60.

USC Upstate will look to avoid its first 0-8 start in 12 years. The Spartans have been idle since losing 65-57 to UNC Greensboro on Dec. 15.

The Spartans are led by Tommy Bruner and Bryson Mozone, who have scoring averages of 14.5 and 12.9, respectively.

Because of COVID-19 concerns, coach Dave Dickerson has handed practice and game duties to assistant Stacey Palmore, who is acting head coach.

"I have an outstanding coaching staff that is well-equipped to take on this challenge," Dickerson told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal of his decision to coach virtually this season. "I know that ... Stacey and (assistant) Drew Garcia will make this a seamless transition for our players. I am confident they are up to the challenge."

Wednesday's matchup will be the second all-time meeting between the two schools. In the first, the Vols won 74-65 in 2013.

This season, the Vols have scored more than 100 points in two straight games.

Next up after the Spartans will be the Vols' SEC opener Dec. 30 against 14th-ranked Missouri.

"All we can do is do what we do right now and try to continue to get better and keep trying to put our team together with the rhythm that we want to play with," Barnes said of upcoming SEC play. "How do you do it? You have to keep getting better every day. You have to understand that obviously you get into conference play and everything gets turned up a level."

USC Upstate will return to Big South play next, taking on High Point on Dec. 30.

--Field Level Media

Updated December 22, 2020

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