Tennessee swept the season series with Ole Miss in Oxford on Saturday, taking down the Rebels 73-65.
The Vols were coming off of an ugly, although much-needed win over Florida on Wednesday. While a win is a win, Tennessee has not had a convincing victory since—well—Ole Miss. Earlier this month, the Vols blew out the Rebels 94-61 in Knoxville and five Vols scored in double figures.
The way Tennessee played in the first half on Saturday made it seem like Ole Miss was in store for another blowout.
Tennessee assisted on 13 of its 15 made baskets, the Vols were shooting 54 percent from deep and Jordan Bowden and Admiral Schofield were already in double-digit scoring.
The Vols cruised to a 41-26 halftime lead and if there was a single play that summed up their offense in the first half, it’s this one:
Defensively, Tennessee held Ole Miss guards Deandre Burnett and Terrance Davis to a combined 2 of 11 from the field and the Rebels to a combined 0 of 13 from deep on their way to a season low 26 points at halftime.
The beginning of the second half was a different story, however.
Tennessee turned the ball over four times on its first five possessions and allowed an 11-0 Ole Miss run, which cut the Vols’ lead to just four points. Thankfully, that’s as close as it got. Even though Tennessee made silly mistakes all throughout the game and was out-rebounded, the Vols were able to right the ship and hold on for win No. 21.
The Vols are still searching for that complete win where they play consistently well through both halves, which would help support the theory that Tennessee is an elite team. Teams that aren’t consistent generally do not do well in the month of March, and Tennessee still has to prove that it can play aggressively with a lead.
Three-Point Shooting was the Difference
Sure, while inconsistent teams struggle in March, the three-pointer will always be the great equalizer. Tennessee shot 45 percent from beyond the arc while Ole Miss converted on just one of its 23 attempts from three-point land. The deep ball is a huge weapon and it’s good to see Tennessee be able to utilize it as we finish out the regular season.
Schofield for SEC Player of the Week
Schofield was the biggest reason Tennessee escaped Oxford with a win. The junior forward scored a career-high 25 points on 9 of 14 shooting and grabbed seven boards. Schofield also had a big game against Florida, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds, making him one of the favorites to win SEC Player of the Week.
Grant Williams M.I.A.
Williams scored a season-low five points in Tennessee’s loss to Georgia last week, but followed it up with a big game on Wednesday, scoring 23 points in the win against Florida. Once again, Williams hovered around that season-low mark on Saturday, finishing with just six points on 3 of 10 shooting.
The cameras that are used to catching an emotional Williams celebrating after an and-one instead captured one who was visibly upset.
He is still the voice of this team and Tennessee can’t afford to have the tone of that voice turn negative just because, “he didn’t get his” on the court Saturday. A win is a win, no matter how ugly it is, and I’m sure Williams will be back to his double-double self soon enough.