The spectacle that took place Sunday afternoon in Talking Stick Resort Arena was a breath of fresh air for Tennessee fans. A much needed win against the No. 1 ranked team in the country provided assurance that this team is not just good, it is elite.
The performance by Admiral Schofield was one for the ages. The senior played the best game of the his career with 30 points and six rebounds, while shooting 6-of-10 from 3-point range. He scored the Vols’ last eleven points.
Despite the amazing show, the aspect that sets Tennessee apart from the majority of teams around the country is their collective approach. They have one of the most dynamic duos in the country in Schofield and Grant Williams. The rest of the supporting cast isn’t that bad either.
Tennessee ranks in the top-15 percent in pretty much every conceivable category. They are extremely well-balanced. The Vols are 46th in defensive efficiency and 40th in offensive efficiency.
What got overshadowed by Schofield’s display was their best defensive performance of the year, and maybe the best in the Rick Barnes’ era. Tennessee held Gonzaga to its lowest point total of the year with 73. The Bulldogs are No. 1 in offensive efficiency. Their previous season-low was 81 against Washington. Gonzaga has scored 90 or more points six times this season. They have clipped the 100-point mark four times.
It was quite an effort to contain the likes of Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke. The two combined for 42 points. The problem was the variety in their supporting cast. Gonzaga only had five players score and four were in double-digits.
Tennessee’s collective effort and steady hand is what set up Schofield for success. They are able to accomplish this by running a fluid offense and limiting turnovers throughout the course of a game.
Another underscore in this game was that Jordan Bone had nine assists on three turnovers. He is averaging 7.4 assists over his last five games. The team as a whole is third in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Vols are impressive on the other end of the floor as well. They average five blocks per game, up half a unit than they averaged last year. Kyle Alexander leads the way with 14. With the exception of Williams, all have played sound defense without causing foul trouble. Williams has played great defense, but can’t seem to avoid attention from the referees. The forward has already picked up a foul against Memphis.
Whether it’s Schofield, Williams or both leading the charge, the Vols still need the rest to help get them to new heights. Sunday’s showcase was an example of an elite player dominating when another leader was out of the game. It was an all-time great performance. But the difference between great individual performances and banners hangs in the balance of the supporting cast.