No. 5 Tennessee impressed on Wednesday night in what was its toughest test to date. The Vols defeated the Louisville Cardinals 92-81 in a barn-burner.
The matchup was just what the Vols needed as a prelude to what will be an even bigger challenge on Friday night. The Cardinals threatened early by hitting three-pointers to the tune of 45.2 percent in the first half. The Vols’ answer was to keep attacking the paint when they had the ball.
Tennessee dominated early and often thanks to Grant Williams putting on a clinic on the blocks. The junior had 17 points and six rebounds in the first half.
The Vols’ offensive attack was as fluid as ever. It was a collective effort orchestrated by Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner at point guard. Bone ran the offense in the first half, while Turner got his turn in the second.
With Louisville continuing to hit three-point shots in the second half, the Vols looked to Turner for answers. The junior hit three deep shots of his own to counter the barrage by the Cardinals. Turner looked as ready as ever in his season debut with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
The offensive production was the most efficient and potent it has been thus far. What’s more impressive is that it came against one of the best defensive tutors in the game, Louisville head coach Chris Mack. The Vols were simply able to pick their spots against Mack’s pack-line defense. After Williams dominated in the first half, others shined in the second. Admiral Schofield was on cue by providing the answer the Vols needed late in the second half to finally separate from the Cardinals.
The three-point blitz from Louisville proved no match against the experience and efficiency of the Vols. Once Turner answered with big shots of his own, the momentum started to fade for the Cardinals. To their credit, attempting 28 three-pointers was Louisville’s only line of defense in this game. Without the long-range assault, this game gets ugly quick for Mack.
Rick Barnes isn’t going to be happy about giving up 81 points, but he should rest easy knowing that his team was able to keep their composure and run their offense until Louisville’s shooting cooled off. He might be even happier that one of his best scorers in back in the mix.
Things could be better, defensively, but Tennessee seemed cognizant of how to adjust to tempo and pick the right spots to attack on the offensive end. The Vols will look to continue their consistent play against the winner of Kansas and Marquette at 9 p.m. on Friday in Brooklyn.