The Vols close out 2019 in disappointing fashion, as they lose by 20 points in their second-worst scoring output of the season.
However, with the new year around the corner and a week-long break, the Vols have an opportunity to start anew, a chance to find a solution.
Ultimately, the Vols presented an overall uninspiring performance on Saturday.
Tennessee was boat-raced by a Wisconsin squad, who entered Thompson-Boling Arena with a stellar 0-5 record on the road this season.
The Vols didn’t have a single double-digit scorer, John Fulkerson and Jalen Johnson led the team with 9 points each.
Moreover, the Vols won’t be winning many games in the SEC with Jordan Bowden and Josiah James combining to shoot 3-19 from the field.
In an attempt to fill the void by Lamonté Turner, freshman Davonté Gaines notched his first collegiate start for the Vols.
For what it’s worth, Gaines could have played much worse when looking at the team’s overall performance.
What might have been overlooked by some, Tennessee’s defense suffered considerably without Turner on the floor.
Turner’s elite on-ball defense was a vital piece of what at one point was among the Top-10 rated defenses in the country (via KenPom).
Gaines has been somewhat of a bright spot for Tennessee, and he has shown the defensive tenacity that Rick Barnes demands.
All in all, it will take time for him to get anywhere near the level Turner provided the Vols.
The inexperience was on full display with the addition of a second freshman to Tennessee’s starting line-up, as the Vols amassed 17 costly (many unforced) turnovers.
The good news is that those turnovers were virtually distributed evenly among the team.
Every single player who appeared for the Vols recorded one turnover, but none recorded more than three.
While Tennessee continued to follow their recent trend of shooting poorly on Saturday, the Vols have help coming in with Uruguayan point-guard Santiago Vescovi.
A struggling Vols offense is in desperate need of a scorer like Vescovi.
As a result, the freshman will have to be able to handle the increased pressure. But, it isn’t all warranted. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact it’s there and mounting.
Although it’s unclear how Barnes will utilize the point guard, not having a plan in place would be less than ideal.
Baptism by fire may be the only course of action with Vescovi because Tennessee basketball has to find an answer.
In the meantime, the Vols could aim towards increasing their relative shot volume as a remedy for their shooting struggles.
That may sound counterproductive, but an increased volume will give Tennessee more opportunity to better their shooting percentages.
Generally, the easiest way to achieve a higher shot-volume is for the Vols to speed up their tempo.
For example, Tennessee won the rebound battle on Saturday, and Wisconsin won the turnover battle (effectively canceling-out for argument’s sake).
The Badgers still attempted 11 more field goals than the Vols.
Coincidentally, Wisconsin finished with nine more made field goals (25) than the Vols (16).
Among the options that may help the Vols offensive production, slightly increasing their pace would be the simplest by far.
Vescovi, being a true point guard, might be the piece that can increase the tempo. Which is much more attainable for the Vols.
Vescovi’s quickness and ball-handling could give Tennessee a chance to use him like Jordan Bone (minus Bone’s athleticism).
Realistically, it may prove to be too much to put on a single individual.
However, if Tennessee is serious about making the NCAA Tournament, they will rely on Vescovi.
Regardless of recent events, the coming new year still has much to offer the Vols.
Following his NCAA-granted eligibility, Santiago Vescovi will be able to compete for the Vols on January 3rd.
Which happens to be a day before conference play begins.
Tennessee opens up its SEC slate versus LSU in Thompson-Boling Arena on January 4th.