Tennessee played host to UT-Chattanooga on Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena, and it looked like the cold weather made its way onto the court, if the shooting was any indication.
If you were looking for a game full of lights-out shooting, this just wasn’t your night. The Vols were trying to push the Mocs up and down the court, but UTC had other plans. This was a Virginia-type game, as Tennessee was relying on the defense to create plays, while they struggled to find their shot most of the game.
Tennessee led UTC 28-18 heading into halftime, though they shot 44 percent in the half. Jordan Bowden led the Vols with 11 first half points, as he continued to hit find his shot at the key. UTC, to its credit, made it very difficult for Tennessee to find its open shots, though the Vols continued trying to get the ball inside the paint.
Rick Barnes said after the game, “We weren’t very efficient on offense and we were obviously trying to get the ball on the inside more.”
Tennessee came out after halftime looking to attack the basket, but points were continuing to be tough to come by. The Mocs were putting a lot of ball pressure on Tennessee, trying to lull the Vols into shooting the 3-pointer. Tennessee finished the game 28 percent behind the arc. This was one of those games in which UTC was hoping to slow the Vols down, which actually worked most of the night.
Barnes, talking about the flow of the game, “There are a lot of teams that like to play like this, I looked at the coaches & told them I cant do this. We needed to push the ball.”
Well, they tried, but it was a defensive battle tonight, along with some cold shooting. This could be a good lesson for the Vols on how to push through a game like this, when shots aren’t falling and the pace is slowed down. Barnes thought Lamonte Turner could’ve done more tonight, even with 12 assists. “He should have had more, but he just didn’t pass it enough. The other guys have a right to miss shots,” Barnes said.
It wasn’t all gloom for Tennessee, as the Vols had three players in double-digits. It was a good sign for Tennessee fans to see John Fulkerson with 14 points and four rebounds. He continues to attack the basket, while flying all over the court for loose balls. Barnes said of Fulky, “When we recruited him, we thought he was the best player in that class,” which if you remember, also included Grant Williams and Jordan Bone.
For the first time since the Texas A&M game last season, the Vols had two players finish with a double-double. Turner finished the game with 17 points and 12 assists, while Bowden had 13 points and 12 rebounds. So, even though the final score is not an indication, the Vols still managed to run UTC enough down the stretch to extend their home winning streak to 30 games.
This wasn’t a pretty win, but it was definitely one that Tennessee can learn from. They figured out a way to get a win when things didn’t go their way and the shots weren’t falling. The Vols can look back on this one and learn a few things. So, now Tennessee heads to Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic, which will see them play Florida State on Friday night, with a potential rematch with Purdue if they win.
One thing is for sure, this group learned a lesson tonight, now it’s time to go face a bigger test on the Gulf Coast. The tougher challenges await.