The Tennessee Vols hit the court on Saturday afternoon for a showdown with the LSU Tigers, with the team looking to get back on the winning track.
There has been a good amount of excitement over the past few weeks for new player Santiago Vescovi, the Vols mid-term enrollee from Uruguay. After a good week of practice, he made his debut and brought the TBA crowd to their feet with two early 3-pointers.
This team has played very timid over the last few weeks, but that didn’t seem to be the case early on. At the under-12 TV break, Vescovi had six points and Josiah-Jordan James had eight. This was a welcomed sight for Tennessee fans, after watching so many slow starts recently .
The Vols were 6-of-9 from 3-pt. range at the U8 timeout, using the kick-out game to their advantage. LSU continued to work the paint, mustering up some tough baskets that Tennessee was poorly defending. The Tigers were also forcing some Tennessee fouls, that didn’t help the situation.
After some pretty rough officiating, with both Rick Barnes and Will Wade were letting the officials have it. Vescovi hit a 3-pointer that sent TBA into a frenzy. But, Tennessee was having a very hard time controlling LSU around the basket, with the 10 turnovers not helping.
At halftime, LSU led 38-37, but the Vols were shooting well. 45 percent from the field and 69 percent from 3-pt. range is something Barnes will take any day. The Tigers were just out-performing the Vols around the basket. LSU also had 12 points off the 10 Tennessee turnovers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.
As the second half started, LSU continued to put on pressure with their full-court defense, causing a few problems for the Vols. At times when James needed to slam the ball home, he looked for the layup instead, which he missed a few of. If he’s going to be aggressive getting there, he needs to start finishing.
At the U16 break, LSU led 49-43, thanks in part to a quick five points off a made basket and Vols turnover.
It was a three-point contest for about two minutes straight in the second half, with both teams trading multiple behind-the-arc shots. The problem was that LSU continued having success around the rim and took advantage of timid shooting. Jordan Bowden only had three points at the 10-minute mark of the second half, nowhere near what the Vols need for sustained success.
Tennessee wasn’t called for a foul in the second half until the 6:09 mark, with LSU called for six up tp that point. The Vols were failing to take advantage of the situation.
After a Vescovi turnover, LSU slammed home a dunk that gave the Tigers a 71-57 lead at the U4 break. John Fulkerson and Bowden had a combined nine points up to this point, which is not going to win you many ball games this season.
After the ninth turnover from Vescovi, the fans started heading for the exits, as the Tigers pulled away to win 78-64. This was one of those performances that you can get excited about because of his 18 points. Without Vescovi, the Vols wouldn’t have hit the 50 point mark again. He’s going to get better over time, but I’d imagine he would’ve been pulled if Barnes thought he had anything better.
Bowden went 1-of-12 from the field. This team is just not the same without him scoring. I don’t know what the problem is, but he was way off tonight with his shot.
Both Vescovi and Yves Pons had 18 points, along with 15 points from Triple-J, which on some days might get you a win. But on this day, not having Fulkerson and Bowden scoring caused many more problems than Barnes would’ve probably expected from that pair.
LSU dominated the paint, which Tennessee tried to counter with three-point shots. The Vols shot 50 percent from behind-the-arc, but it just wasn’t enough to keep it within range late in the game. When you give up 19 points on 14 turnovers, it’s probably not going to be a pleasant ending.
Tennessee is now on a two-game losing streak and will head to Missouri on Tuesday looking to snap it. They’ve got a lot of work to do if that’s going to happen.