Coming off the heels of a tough 75-65 defeat at Rupp Arena on Tuesday to SEC rival Kentucky, the Volunteers will look to bounce back against another SEC foe in Mississippi State.
Expect the Vols to come out with a sense of urgency against the Bulldogs as their recent loss to Kentucky dropped them to 0-3 in conference play.
"This is the sort of hole we can get ourselves out of," junior guard Jordan McRae said. "But these next couple of games are must-win, so we've got to do whatever we've got to do, watch film tomorrow and try to get it straightened out."
For head coach Cuonzo Martin, the Vols' slow start in SEC play is nothing new as the team faced the same challenge last year.
"I do not look at us last year starting 1-4," Martin said. "Every season and every game is different. It is a different team every year, and you have to find ways to win games and do what we need to do to be successful."
One bright side to the slow start in conference play has been the emergence of McRae, who has scored 20-plus points in four consecutive contests, and could be a huge factor in getting the Vols their first SEC victory of the season.
"Jordan is scoring the ball well for us," Martin said. "He's shooting about 50 percent, and one thing we talked about with our guards is really focusing on getting their field goal percentage up 45 percent or better, so that's a good sign."
Another key factor for the Vols is going to be finding places to get sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes the ball where he can score and have a chance to dominate the interior of the defense.
"Really, the biggest key is to try and get the ball where he can catch it and go up," Martin said. "When you do not have guys on the backside, guys sitting down there hanging around the rim, because sometimes you can catch the ball and drop step but there is normally a guy on the backside, really it has not been like that these last couple of games. So really we are just trying to find ways Jarnell can catch and go up, not even have to dribble."
An interesting stat for the night could be the numbers both teams put up in the rebounding department as both teams will come into the game with nearly identical rebounding numbers, with the Vols averaging with 36.9 boards a game and the Bulldogs averaging 36.8 a game.
The Vols will tip off against the Bulldogs at Thompson-Boling Arena at 4 p.m.