Tennessee Falls To Alabama After A Rough Night Shooting

Tennessee guard/forward Yves Pons (35) runs into Alabama forward Jordan Bruner (2) during a game at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Jan 2, 2021.

Tennessee found themselves on the wrong side of bad shooting on Saturday night in Knoxville. The No. 7 Vols, who were coming off a lopsided win at No. 12 Missouri, found themselves in trouble all night around the basket. This was one of those nights where nothing seemed to go their way.

The Vols were facing an Alabama team that lived off driving to the basket and creating looks, the Tide were shooting 30 percent from three-point range coming into this game. We will get back to that later on.

Santiago Vescovi had six points for the Vols at the under twelve break, where they led 12-10. Even after the slow start for Tennessee, the previous outing would show they could get out of a cold night shooting. It wasn’t going to be tonight, though.

Tennessee was 5-of-21 from the field and 2-of-7 from three point range after four more minutes of play. The Vols continued to play good defense against the Tide, but the shots weren’t falling. It was 16-14 at this point and it was all Alabama for the rest of the 1st half.

Jaden Springer went down with what appeared to be a sprained ankle late in the half, dealing the Vols another blow on the offensive end. A Tennessee spokesman announced that Springer is day-to-day with an ankle sprain.

Alabama led Tennessee 31-29 at halftime. The Vols shot 33 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range. They struggled to find an open shot over the last eight minutes of the half and Alabama continued to drive the basket, causing problems around the rim.

Vescovi led the Vols with eight points in the half.

Rick Barnes was furious with the referees in the final minutes of the half, picking up a technical foul in the process. As they were headed to the locker room, Barnes was almost begging for another, after a friendly stroll with the officials at halftime.

The second half couldn’t have started any worse for the Vols, as Alabama caught fire behind the arc. The game was close at the 18:06 mark in the 2nd half, but that’s when the Tide started draining buckets. Tennessee was having multiple problems guarding the perimeter and Alabama made them pay.

At the first television break of the 2nd half, Alabama was 5-of-5 from three-point range and extended their lead to 48-36. It almost felt like there was nothing the Vols could do at the moment to slow the Tide’s momentum. They were just taking advantage of some poor off-ball defense by Tennessee.

The Vols were needing a spark and they got it from Yves Pons, who was playing with three fouls. It was a block party that kept the Vols within striking distance, as Pons had five blocks in the second half. But unfortunately, this didn’t translate into points on the other end.

Alabama continued to give Tennessee every opportunity to take over this game, but the Vols were settling for bad shots and contested layups. Coming out of the under four minute break, Alabama hadn’t hit a FG since the 8:03 mark and still led 63-56. The Vols struggles at the free throw line only made things worse. This could’ve easily been a tied game. It didn’t take long for the Tide to break the scoring drought, hitting their first shot out of the break and seemingly putting Tennessee away.

John Petty had 17 points and was 4-of-4 from three-point range, which goes back on the Vols’ struggles on defense. The Tide finished with four players in double-digits, taking full advantage of the Vols’ bad night in transition and defense around the basket.

When your two leaders in John Fulkerson and Pons finish the night with 13 combined points, the Vols can expect results like this, especially with Springer on the bench. Barnes made it a point to say that Fulkerson’s minutes will be up for grabs if continues to play like this. Barnes even suggested he will take a look at the lineup and potentially make a few changes.

That’s Barnes’ motivational tactic right there, as Fulkerson knows he has to be better, as does Pons.

Victor Bailey Jr. was the leading scorer for Tennessee, leading the Vols with 16 points and seven rebounds.

Alabama finished off Tennessee at the free throw line, a spot where the Vols faltered tonight. The Tide won 71-63, in a game where the Vols were 21-of-66 from FG range, 4-of-21 from the perimeter and 17-of-26 from the free throw line. Those type of stats won’t win you many games if you can’t lock down on the opposing in.

Barnes was asked following the game if he thought his team was overconfident.

“If they were overconfident, that’s over with now.”

The Vols will find out more on Springer over the next 24 hours, as they hope it’s a minor injury.

This team knows they are better than what they presented tonight, so now it’s about correcting their mistakes and coming out against Arkansas with conviction.

Pons was asked during the postgame press conference about tonight’s performance and how this team moves on to the next game.

“We’re gonna fix things, keep working and not let this happen again.”