The Tennessee Hoops team traveled to Kansas on Saturday for a matchup with the #3 JayHawks, in a game that was marred by the controversy that went down earlier in the week.
If you were looking for any kind of offense in the first few minutes, this wasn’t the game to be watching. The first basket wasn’t scored until the 16:54 mark, due to some bad shot selection and both teams having a hard time around the basket.
John Fulkerson came into this game as a leader for the Vols, which showed up quick. Fulkerson had the first basket for Tennessee, which led to him and Santiago Vescovi scoring the first 14 points for the Vols.
If the score was any indicator the flow of offense early in this game, Tennessee led 6-4 at the 13:03 mark. Back to back three pointers by Yves Pons gave the Vols a 20-13 lead at the 8:00 mark. One would think this would be a good sign for this young Tennessee group.
In a very different look, Jordan Bowden only played six minutes in the 1st half.
The Vols were playing pretty aggressive defense, which was brought to the forefront at the 4:20 mark, when Olivier Nkamhoua went up for a block, that was called a flagrant one foul. Momentum seemed to completely switch sides at this mark.
Yves Pons led the Vols with 12 points in the first half.
Fulkerson finished the first half with 9 points, along with Vescovi. It cannot be understated how much Tennessee needed the aggression from Fulkerson, who had a few plays that will show up on the highlight reel.
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) January 25, 2020
Azubuike had nine points for Kansas in the 1st half, as the Jawhawks closed on a 18-4 run heading to the locker room.
After only playing seven minutes in the 1st half, Jordan Bowden came out of halftime on a mission. Bowden had 11 points at the 12:33 mark of the 2nd half. Whatever the message from Rick Barnes was, he received it.
Kansas continued to spread out the court and work through the paint, causing problems for the Tennessee defense, especially the inside-out game. Azubuike picked up his 4th foul at the 8:26 mark, which the Vols tried to take advantage of on multiple possessions.
Yves Pons reached his career high in points at the 7:52 mark, with his 20th point of the night. Trying to lead the Vols around the paint, along with Fulkerson, ended up being a bit too much towards the end of the game.
As Tennessee tried to attack the paint, Fulkerson picked up his 3rd foul at the 4:30 mark. Kansas only led 66-63 at this point of the game, giving the Vols some hope for a potential upset.
The plan when Azubuike re-entered the game was to force him to the free throw line, which they were very successful at. Unfortunately for Tennessee, he knocked down a few, which caused the Vols to start forcing up some shots, under the 2:00 minute mark.
If it weren’t for Jordan Bowden scoring 19 points in the 2nd half, this game could’ve gotten out of control quick. But, this team continued to show its fight, not conceding victory until the Jayhawks dribbled it out with :11 seconds left. The 17 points Kansas scored off the Vols 15 turnovers didn’t help the cause tonight, but Tennessee has to get more from their bench in the minutes they get.
One point from your bench is not going to win you many games, that’s pretty obvious. But, getting 0 points from Triple-J doesn’t help as well. Too many times this season, 3 or 4 Vols have themselves a great night, but with the lack of production from the bench, it’s not going to get you far.
A 74-68 loss to the #3 team in the country is not a bad look at all, Tennessee actually played really well at spots. But knowing you could’ve potentially pulled off an upset with a few more points from your bench and starting guard is probably going to sting a bit more.
This was one of those games that many didn’t expect Tennessee to be in, and they proved them wrong. But, this was also a game Tennessee could’ve taken advantage of and given them a signature win.
One thing is for sure, Tennessee is starting to figure out who their leaders are, as Pons, Fulkerson and Bowden raised their hands this evening.
Tennessee will host Texas A&M on Tuesday night, as the Vols look to grab another SEC win.