The Vols rolled into Gainesville on Tuesday night, looking to extend their three-game winning streak. It didn’t take long for the Vols to figure out what kind of night it would be.
The Vols had a new starter tonight, as Keon Johnson got the start in the absence of Jaden Springer, who was dealing with an ankle injury. Tennessee never looked comfortable shooting the ball from the start.
Tennessee’s John Fulkerson was benched on two different occasions in the first few minutes of the game, as the Vols were getting manhandled around the rim. At the first television break, the Vols trailed 6-2, showing just how tough it was for them to get off any good shots.
The Vols were 1-6 from the field to start the game. This group went over five minutes without scoring a basket in the first half. Just as the under twelve break was hitting, the Vols were 3-13 from the field. The shot selection for Tennessee wasn’t helping their case at all, settling for three-point shots while the paint was open.
The score could’ve been much worse if it weren’t for the bad three-point shooting from the Gators. The Vols were down 23-14 at the under eight break, having shot 24% from the field at that time. The Vols were being out-rebounded 22-14. The lack of fight under the rim for the Vols showed up in a big way tonight, especially in second-chance points.
The Gators continued taking advantage of the horrid shooting from Tennessee, as they led 38-27 at halftime. The Vols were 9-32 from the field and 3-12 from behind the arc. Now, add on to the fact they were out-scored in the paint 24-8; this was setting up to be a terrible night for the Vols.
As the halftime break was upcoming, Santiago Vescovi was seen stretching out his hip and looked to be in some discomfort.
The Gators used a 9-0 run over the first 1:32 of the second half to break things open even further. Overall it was a 13-2 run in live game action, just another sign of how bad this night turned out for Rick Barnes and his team.
The Vols continued fighting during the midway point of the 2nd half; they had cut the lead down to ten points. Just as Tennessee was getting closer, the Gators struck back, again and again.
By the time the under eight-minute break came, the Gators led 63-44. The Vols would only score 5 points the remainder of the game. Rick Barnes was very adamant during his postgame press conference that John Fulkerson and Yves Pons can no longer take a backseat to their teammates.
“Fulky and Yves can’t hide behind anyone anymore. They are the ones the young guys look too.”
Barnes also pointed out that this team cannot just show up and think they’ll pull a win out.
“We proved tonight we’re not good enough to go through the motions”.
Tennessee was down 55-42 at the 10:26 mark of the second half but only managed to score seven more points the remainder of the game. If that doesn’t show you how bad this performance was, I don’t know what will.
The Gators were down a few key players tonight, and the Vols never took advantage. It was a lackluster outing all around, which Rick Barnes was not happy about postgame.
You can’t polish what happened tonight in Gainesville, as the final seconds drained off the clock and Tennessee was sent packing with a 75-49 loss. The Vols were without Jaden Springer tonight, but that’s not an excuse to play this bad, the effort wasn’t anywhere close to what was needed. John Fulkerson led the Vols with 15 points, but he didn’t receive much help. Keon Johnson was the second-leading scorer with eight points.
Tennessee will have to figure out where they can find scoring production, as their other leader Yves Pons only had five points against the Gators. Rick Barnes made his feelings known postgame, on the leadership of this team and the way they played tonight.
“There’s not one guy that started the game that was productive. We got exactly what we deserved.”
Rick Barnes also made it clear that there will be some changes to how this lineup looks. “I don’t know what it’s gonna be, but I will change the lineup.”
Barnes also added, “I am not going to let guys take things for granted.”
This Tennessee team has a big matchup looming on Saturday, as Missouri comes to Knoxville for a rematch. If the Vols can’t figure out how to play better in the paint, the Tigers will make them pay. But, this is just one game, and this team must use that mindset.
It’s not the end of the world, but they can’t bring this effort back to Knoxville. It might be time to shake up the lineup again if only to send a message. Performances like tonight will not get them far once tournament time comes around.