No. 9 Tennessee travels to Wisconsin on Friday to kickstart a whirlwind month that includes a multi-day stint in Honolulu and matchups with preseason Top 25 foes North Carolina and Illinois in the next 30 days.
The Volunteers early visit to Madison for a non-conference matchup Friday night is unique for multiple reasons.
In the long, storied history of Wisconsin basketball, this will be the first time the Badgers have faced a top 10 opponent at home in November.
Tennessee (1-0) jumped out of the gates on Monday with an 80-42 victory over Tennessee Tech. Wisconsin (1-0) also won at home Monday, dominating Arkansas State 105-76.
“Now we jump to deep water real fast, so we’re looking forward to Friday night,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said.
The Volunteers dominated from the start in their opener, holding Tennessee Tech scoreless over the first 4 1/2 minutes. Tennessee jumped out to a 23-6 lead and pushed it to 41-12 at the half.
Dalton Knecht, a fifth-year transfer from Northern Colorado, had 17 points, and junior Jordan Gainey, a transfer from University of South Carolina Upstate, added 14 points.
The Volunteers, picked to win the Southeastern Conference in the preseason poll, held Tennessee Tech to 27.5 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers. Tennessee also had a 36-3 advantage in points off the bench. Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said the Vols are counting on their experience in games away from home.
The Badgers, 97-30 under Gard at the Kohl Center, returned all five starters from that went 20-15 last season, but missed the NCAA Tournament for just the second time since 1998 and the first time since 2018.
Wisconsin, which averaged just 65.3 points last season, shot 65 percent against Arkansas State while putting up the most points the Badgers have scored in the Kohl Center, which opened in 1998.
“I’ve got a great deal of respect for Wisconsin and how they play,” Barnes said. “They’ve got some older guys, veteran guys and going to be a good team. We’re a good team. They’re going to be right in the thick of it in the Big Ten.”
“Greg Gard does a great job with his guys,” Barnes said. “And, it’s a really terrific arena to play in. They’ve got a great fan base.”
Chucky Hepburn led Wisconsin with 20 points in the opener and AJ Storr, a sophomore transfer from St. John’s, added 15.
The Badgers scored 56 points in the paint and also got 39 points off the bench.
“We knew going in that we were going to be able to score and get where we wanted,” Hepburn said. “But it’s the defense side that we’ve got to focus on now. We’ve got Tennessee coming in on Friday, so we’ve just got to tighten up things on defense.”
Wisconsin has the only two games played vs. the Volunteers, including a 68-48 victory at Tennessee in the last meeting in 2019.
–Field Level Media