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Hoops Central: No. 22 Tennessee vs. No. 3 Kansas

The 22nd Tennessee men’s basketball team will play for the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship in the Bahamas on Friday, taking on the defending champions, the third-place Kansas Jayhawks, at around 7:30 p.m. ET.

Fans can watch Friday’s game on ESPN and online or on any mobile device via WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN app or online at espn.com/watch. Jon Sciambi (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (analyst) will have the call.

Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Brian Rice and Bert Bertelkamp describe the action.

Tennessee (4-1) defeated USC 73-66 in overtime in Thursday’s Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals. student in the first year Julian Phillips had a breakthrough for the Vols, scoring a season-high 25 points while pulling off a season-high eight rebounds Olivier Nkamhoua ended up in double digits with 12 points and six rebounds.

Kansas (6-0) advanced into Friday’s championship game by beating Wisconsin 69-68 in overtime. The Jayhawks defeated NC State 80-74 in their opening game Wednesday in the Bahamas.

Friday’s matchup marks the fourth time Tennessee has met Kansas in the past five seasons. The Jayhawks have a 2-1 lead in their last three meetings, but the Vols won the last meeting on Jan. 30, 2021 in Knoxville 80-61.

After Friday’s Battle 4 Atlantis championship game, Tennessee returns to Knoxville for three home games, beginning with a meeting with McNeese State Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. ET on SEC Network. Tickets are available at AllVols.com.

THE SERIES

• Tennessee is following its all-time streak with Kansas, 2-4, from 2009. The programs have met three times in Tennessee during the Barnes era. Most recently, each team won back-to-back SEC/Big 12 Challenge matchups in 2020 and 2021 at their home level.
• Tennessee’s first-ever triumph over Kansas came on Jan. 10, 2010, when the Volunteers shocked the senior and undefeated Jayhawks (76-68) in Knoxville.
• A win on Friday would give the Vols their 22nd victory over a ranked opponent during the Barnes era and their 10th top 10 triumph in that span.
• With last month’s exhibition win over No. 2 Gonzaga, Tennessee is on a five-game winning streak against AP Top 10 opponents.
• Tennessee recorded eight AP Top 5 wins during the Barnes era.

SCOUTING REPORT

• Five Star Newcomer Julian Phillips was Tennessee’s top performer this week, leading the Vols in both scoring (18.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg). In Thursday’s win against USC, he broke out for 25 and eight — both season highs.
• Senior wing and Tennessee’s top scorer Josiah Jordan James is shooting an SEC-best .526 from 3-point range this season (10 of 19), but has been inactive this week due to left knee pain.
• Less than a month ago, the Vols beat then-No. 2 Gonzaga in a neutral exhibition in Frisco, Texas with James inactive.
• According to KenPom, the Vols rank second in the country for Adjusted Defense Efficiency, allowing just 85.0 points per 100 possessions.
• The rims at Imperial Arena weren’t kind to the Vols’ shooters this week as Tennessee shoots .242 from 3-point range (8 for 33).
• Tennessee is forcing 21.5 turnovers per game this week and converting those turnovers into 21.5 points per game.

LAYUP LINES

• Tennessee is chasing its first holiday tournament title since November 2010, when Scotty Hopson and current 76ers star Tobias Harris fired the Vols to the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship, defeating VCU and No. 7 Villanova at Madison Square Garden.
• The last time Tennessee played three games in three days, the Vols won the 2022 SEC Tournament championship with a perfect 3-0 in Tampa in March.
• Tennessee now has an all-time 6-2 record from three appearances at Battle 4 Atlantis (2013, 2017, 2022).
• Among Division I teams this season, only Virginia, Xavier and Utah State have a higher assist ratio than Tennessee’s 69.0 percent.

ABOUT KANSAS

• Kansas (6-0) enter Friday’s Battle 4 Atlantis championship game against Tennessee after earning a 69-68 overtime win over Wisconsin in Thursday’s Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals.
• The third-ranked Jayhawks defeated NC State 80-74 in their opening game of Battle 4 Atlantis on Wednesday.
• Kansas head coach Bill Self is in his 20th season as head coach at KU and 30 overall. Self posted a 562-124 (.819) record in Kansas.
• Last season, the defending champions Jayhawks won 17 straight games.
• Redshirt junior forward Jalen Wilson, who had 29 points and 14 rebounds in Kansas’ semifinals win over Wisconsin, is the Jayhawks’ top scorer (24.3 ppg) and rebounder (10.3 rpg).
• Wilson was a member of the Kansas national team last season, averaging 11.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and being named a third-team All-Big 12 pick.
• Kansas was picked second in the Big 12 by the league’s preseason coaches, while Wilson and redshirt senior guard Kevin McCullar Jr. were named the preseason All-Big 12 by the league’s coaches.
• The Jayhawks’ second-best scorer is freshman Gradey Dick — the 2022 Gatorade Player of the Year and 2022 McDonald’s All-American. Dick has averaged 16.8 ppg so far this season and has two 20-point games.
• McCullar Jr., a transfer from Texas Tech, averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in six games. McCullar Jr. had 18 points and nine rebounds against Wisconsin on Thursday. He had eight points and ten rebounds in Texas Tech’s win against Tennessee in New York City last season.

PHILLIPS, DICK MET EARLIER THIS YEAR AS PREP HOOPERS

• On February 11, 2022, National #1 Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan). took a big step toward securing first place at the GEICO National Championships by defeating No. 3 Link Academy (Mon.), 74-65, at the Heartland Hoops Classic.
• This game featured the current UT newcomer Julian Phillips (Link Academy) and KU freshman Gradey Dick (Sunrise).
• Phillips and Dick later faced each other in the 2022 McDonald’s All-American Game, in which Phillips scored nine points and Dick three. Current Jayhawks Earnest Udeh and MJ Rice also played in that game and were teammates with Phillips.
• Interestingly, Vol’s assistant coach Rod Clark was an assistant at Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas from 2017 to 2019. And Kennedy Chandler, 2022 SEC Tournament MVP and NBA draft pick, visited Sunrise Christian shortly after Clark transitioned to collegiate-level coaching.

VOLS OVERWHELMS #2 ZAGS

• In a charity show at a neutral venue on October 28, Tennessee defeated preseason No. 2 Gonzaga, 99-80, in Frisco, Texas. And that was without the previous season’s all-SEC wing Josiah Jordan Jameswho didn’t get dressed.
• Playing in a game environment in front of fans for the first time in almost 20 months, Grad Transfer Tyreke Key led by a game high of 26 points in 8v12 shooting, including 4v7 from deep.

LAST MEETING WITH KANSAS

• A 53 percent shot performance and dominant rebound performance carried the 18th-ranked Tennessee basketball team 80-61 over No. 15 Kansas on January 30, 2021 at the Thompson-Boling Arena. The win secured the 2021 SEC/Big 12 Challenge for the SEC, 5-4.
• The Volunteers ripped off 38 rebounds, beat the Jayhawks by 15 and held Kansas to zero second chance points.
• Tennessee were out from both the 3-point range (8 of 13) and the foul line (16 of 17).
• Naismith candidate for Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons fell behind with 17 points as team-best on a 7-of-9 shot while nixing both attempts from 3-point range and clinching five rebounds to put UT in to trigger several key moments .
• John Fulkerson had 11 points in 5-of-8 shooting, had six rebounds and had three assists.
• In his first start since returning from injury, Tennessee freshman Jaden Springer had 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal. Springer was also a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity flick.
• The reliable data sheet filler of the Vols, Josiah Jordan Jamesnine points total while recording a game-high 11 rebounds, dishing out four assists and adding a block.
• Substituted off the bench, junior Victor Bailey Jr. scored 11 second-half points to help the Vols extend their lead after half-time. Bailey also finished the night with four assists, two rebounds and a steal.
• Tennessee dominated for much of the first 12 minutes of the night and went 12-4 over five minutes to take a 21-12 lead with less than eight minutes remaining in the first half.
• The Vols continued to accelerate until the end of the half, extending their lead to 16 before going into the break 40-26.
• It was a similar story in the second half, as Tennessee extended their lead to 21 in the first five minutes of the frame, wiping out six of nine shot attempts.

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