Rick Barnes will face the 18th-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday for the first time since they ended his lengthy tenure at Texas, but his new team might have trouble keeping up with one of its leading scorers out.
Butler (7-1) heads into this rematch in fine form after a 93-66 rout of VMI on Monday. The Bulldogs hit a season-high 10 3-pointers while nudging their scoring average up to 91.4.
Kelan Martin had 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting and eight rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. The sophomore forward has totaled 44 points and made 18 of 24 shots in the past two games.
Butler also had its best scoring performance and most assists (19) in the last six games.
"We have some versatility and when we're playing well, we have an unselfish bunch," coach Chris Holtmann said. "That's who they are."
The Bulldogs will try to match their 8-1 start from last season by topping a program that beat the then-No. 15 team 67-55 on Dec. 14 in Knoxville. The Vols started last season 12-5 before falling apart during SEC play en route to finishing 16-16.
Barnes, who came to Tennessee with more than 600 wins, has found the going a little rougher so far with a 4-3 record. His final game with the Longhorns was a 56-48 defeat to Butler in the NCAA Tournament March 19, his only meeting with the Bulldogs.
"I think (they're) similar. It's a team that has their key guys back. They have their system intact. They know what they want to get done. They're a very good team, and obviously a team that's well-coached," he said. "They are a team that will present a lot of problems because they've got so much they do on the offensive end."
Barnes has gotten nearly two weeks to work with his team before its first matchup with a ranked opponent. The Vols are coming off back-to-back losses at the Barclays Center Classic, culminating with an 82-71 defeat to Nebraska on Nov. 28.
Tennessee had its second-worst shooting performance (35.6 percent) and is averaging 79.7 points on 43.8 percent shooting this season. The Vols were giving up 73.0 points on 39.1 percent shooting in their previous six games before allowing the Cornhuskers to connect at 49.2.
They're 0-3 away from home, losing 69-67 to Georgia Tech on Nov. 16 in their only other true road game.
Tennessee won't have Robert Hubbs III for their upcoming ones after he underwent right knee surgery Dec. 1. The junior guard, who is out indefinitely, was averaging 15.3 points.
The job of replacing his production could fall mainly on Kevin Punter, one of the nation's leading scorers at 22.3 points per game. The senior guard is shooting 54.4 percent and has gone 14 of 34 from 3-point range.
Punter had 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting as the Vols rallied from a 12-point deficit in last season's win over Butler.
The teams have split four matchups with Tennessee winning the last two. They're meeting in Hinkle Fieldhouse for the first time since December 1958.
Butler has won 25 consecutive games there against nonconference opponents.