Knoxville, TN – The Tennessee basketball team is riding a four-game win streak – tied for its longest of the season – during which the Volunteers (15-10, 7-6 SEC) are outscoring their opponents by 14.3 points while shooting .505 from the field and a blistering .458 from 3-point range.
The Vols look to make it five straight victories with a trip to College Station, Texas, where they’ll meet first-year Southeastern Conference member Texas A&M (16-10, 6-7 SEC) at Reed Arena. Tipoff is set for 4:01pm ET, and the game will be televised regionally on the SEC Network.
UT’s opponents are averaging just 59.2 points during Tennessee’s four-game win tear.
Tennessee junior Trae Golden is averaging 18.0 points in UT’s last four games while shooting .500 from the field and .882 from the foul line (30-of-34). The Powder Springs, Ga., native also is averaging 5.0 assists per game during that span, and he is coming off back-to-back eight-assist efforts.
Immediately prior to Golden and the Vols making their four-game run, Golden missed two and a half contests with a strained right hamstring.
Fellow junior Jordan McRae shouldered the point guard responsibilities in Golden’s absence. When Golden returned, he displayed increased offensive aggression and seemed to be more at peace with his identity as a “scoring point guard.”
“(Trae is) like the leader on this team,” McRae said Thursday. “He can get his own shot and create for others. When you don’t have your floor general out there, it’s kind of hard for someone else to step in and try to duplicate that.”
McRae put together the most impressive offensive effort by a Vol this season when he erupted for a career-high 34 points in Tennessee’s 82-72 triumph over LSU Tuesday night. McRae was a perfect 6-for-6 from 3-point range in the victory, and he has made each of his last seven attempts from beyond the arc dating to UT’s victory over Kentucky on Feb. 16th.
McRae enters this weekend’s clash leading the SEC in minutes played during conference games (36.1 mpg). Ranking second just behind McRae is Texas A&M senior Elston Turner (35.8 mpg).
With an average of 17.5 points per game in SEC play, Turner is the conference’s third-leading scorer (just ahead of McRae, who averages 17.3 ppg).
“He does a great job of attacking the rim, making shots and shooting the pull-up,” UT head coach Cuonzo Martin said of Turner. “In some ways, he’s similar to Marshall Henderson (of Ole Miss) in how he scores. He comes off screens, and he knows how to shot-fake, get fouled and get to the free-throw line.”
Turner’s father, Elston H. Turner Sr., grew up in Knoxville and graduated from Austin-East High School before attending Ole Miss on a basketball scholarship and later enjoying an eight-year NBA career.
When Turner Sr. was starring on the Knoxville high school scene, he and current Vol Network radio analyst Bert Bertelkamp (Bearden High School) were both elite-level prospects. Bertelkamp signed with UT and head coach Ray Mears, while Turner Sr. chose to be a Rebel and play for coach Bob Weltlich.
“They were the top two players – not only in the state – but two of the top players in the country,” veteran Vol Network play-by-play announcer Bob Kesling said. “They were different players. Bert was a shooter, and Elston was a slasher and a driver. Bearden and Austin-East were both really good, and they would play each other, the games would be played at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum because so many people wanted to go to the games.
“Elston, at that time was more of a slasher, and coach Mears’ offense was set up more to have wing players. Bert really fit in to Tennessee’s offense at that time a lot better than Elston did, and that’s one of the main reasons Elston wound up at Ole Miss.”
Tennessee leads its all-time series with Texas A&M 4-1, dating to 1951.