KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee men's basketball team will play at Alabama Tuesday night at 7 EST in Coleman Coliseum.
The Volunteers (12-9, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) are coming off an 86-73 loss at Mississippi State on Saturday, while the Crimson Tide (12-9, 4-4) have lost two straight after a four-game winning streak.
Tennessee has lost three games in a row after back-to-back wins against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
Here are three keys for the Vols to get a win at Alabama:
1. Finish defensive effort with rebounds: Tennessee has done an excellent job defensively, for the most part, in recent games, but the main issue has been rebounding. The Vols have yielded more that 30 opponents' offensive rebounds in the past two games. The backboards may have been a place where Josiah-Jordan James was needed against the Bulldogs on Saturday, because his absence cost the Vols their best starting perimeter defender and second-leading rebounder. Coach Rick Barnes called James "day-to-day," and if he continues to be unable to go, the Vols need to find somebody who can help in that regard. The defense has been too good initially for them to not get the payoff — a rebound, which could help get them get out in transition and score some easy baskets.
2. Defend the 3: Alabama has got nearly 34% of its scoring on 3-point shots in SEC play, which ranks second in the league. Nearly half (47%) of the Crimson Tide's points come on 3s, which is tops in the league. Tuesday night will match the best 2-point-shooting team in the league (Alabama) against the best team at defending the 2, but while Alabama is efficient inside 3-point range, it prefers to get its points beyond the arc.
3. Be effective offensively: It may be hard to tell, but the Vols are still one of the better shooting teams in the SEC. But that has gotten lost in poor ball security, as the Vols rank last with turnovers on 21% of their possessions. Alabama is a team that likes to get out and run, which could play in Tennessee's favor as Barnes has harped on the need to play faster. Maybe the faster pace can lead to some easier offense for the Vols, who could use that right now.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.