Slower tempo ballgame still a success for Tennessee
Chants ranging form “fire Currie” to “hire Kiffin” to “hire tee” fizzled quickly from one corner of Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday night. Tennessee is, after all, a football school.
Meanwhile, the school’s basketball team improved its record to 5-1.
Rick Barnes’ Tennessee teams have only won 36 games. Seventeen of them have come when opponents shoot below 39%. Fifteen have come against weak non-conference opponents.
But in Barnes’ third season, Tennessee has used nearly the entire tool belt on its way to five wins.
Against Purdue it was a 50-rebound performance. Versus NC State, it was 13 steals and perimeter defense. And against Presbyterian and High Point, it was basically everything.
Wednesday night the Vols coasted to an 84-60 win by way of its half court offense.
“We need to get out in the open court,” Barnes said after UT’s 88-54 win over High Point. “We don’t want to be a team that has to grind it every single time down the floor.”
Even with the shot clock expiring more than halfway on several possessions, Tennessee led by 19 at halftime. Again the Vols used a strong defensive stretch to build a lead, with a 26-10 run in the first half, though the team was forced into more lengthy offensive possessions.
“We were efficient in the half court offense,” Barnes said. “We got the ball where we wanted to get it. The only thing we didn’t do was go rebound it.”
Mercer won the rebounding battle 31 to 23, though the Vols limited Schofield to 17 minutes with shoulder concerns and matchups. It marked three straight games that the opponent has out rebounded Tennessee.
James Daniel recorded 10 assists for the second time this season. The guard who scored the most points in college basketball two seasons ago now has more games with double digit assists than double digit points.
It seems obvious to say the next three weeks will serve as a preview for conference play. But a Sunday matchup at Georgia Tech and home battle with National Champion North Carolina provide UT a chance to demonstrate its growth over the past two seasons.