No. 6 Arizona begins its longest series of road games in 14 seasons when the Wildcats face No. 19 Tennessee on Wednesday in Knoxville, Tenn.
After Arizona (11-0) plays the Volunteers (8-2), it will visit No. 5 UCLA on Dec. 30 and No. 8 Southern California on Jan. 2. The Wildcats complete their four-game road trip Jan. 8 at Arizona State.
It is the first time the Wildcats will play four consecutive road games since January 2008, when they opposed Arizona State, Houston, Stanford and California and produced a 2-2 mark.
“I think it’ll show who’s ready for adversity, who’s willing to give themselves and sacrifice just for the best of the team,” guard Bennedict Mathurin said of the road trip.
After Arizona’s 84-60 win over California Baptist on Saturday, coach Tommy Lloyd was told during his press conference that the Wildcats do not return until Jan. 13.
“Thanks for reminding me,” Lloyd said with a chuckle. “I didn’t even know that, to be honest with you. Regardless of what’s going to happen, our mindset has to be we’re going to be better for it.”
Tennessee enters the Wednesday game coming off an eight-day break. A scheduled Saturday game against Memphis in Nashville was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols within the Tigers’ program.
Wednesday’s game marks just the fifth meeting between Tennessee and Arizona, and the first since the Wildcats beat the Volunteers in the 1998-99 season opener. The Volunteers hold a 3-1 series edge.
The teams have not met in Knoxville since 1982. It also is just the second time in program history that the Volunteers have played a Pac-12 school ranked in the nation’s top 10.
“We have a terrific opponent coming in here,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “It is a team that is going to really test our defense. They are the nation’s best 2-point field-goal defensive team (allowing opponents to shoot 38.8 percent).
“I am excited. You find out something every night. I don’t think we are anywhere near where we need to be yet.”
Arizona will try to correct its recent slow starts that included falling behind by 13 points at Illinois and 11 against Cal Baptist before rallying to win.
The Wildcats are led by Mathurin’s 17.4 points a game and Christian Koloko’s 7.3 rebounds per contest.
Entering the week, Arizona led the nation at scoring (91 points per game) and assists (21.8 per game).
Tennessee is also efficient on offense. Through the weekend, the Volunteers ranked fourth in the nation in assist/turnover ratio (1.80), fifth in turnover margin (plus-7.1) and sixth in assists per game (19.3).
The Wildcats were fifth in assist/turnover ratio (1.75). Arizona also ranked fourth in blocked shots at 7.2 per game behind Koloko’s 3.5 per contest.
Kennedy Chandler has scored or assisted on 34.8 percent of Tennessee’s points this season. His 5.4 assists per game rank second among the nation’s true freshmen.
Tennessee’s Victor Bailey Jr., a transfer from Oregon, has appeared in four career games against Arizona, averaging 5.8 points and 1.5 rebounds. He is contributing 4.9 points and 1.3 rebounds per game this season.
–Field Level Media