In their first home game since the Orlando Classic Tournament, the Vols narrowly defeated a feisty Kansas State squad.
Tennessee came out noticeably physical on defense in the first few minutes of action. “We showed some pride at the defensive side of the floor tonight.” Coach Donnie Tyndall said. They recorded three blocks in the first 90 seconds of play, including two by Tariq Owens, who was in the starting lineup for the first time in his career.
Both teams struggled to score, especially Kansas State, who shot 5-20 from the field and 0-7 from beyond the arc in the first half. The Vols were able to pull away before halftime thanks to Josh Richardson and Robert Hubbs III’s back-to-back three-pointers that put the Vols up by 4. The run they initiated gave Tennessee an 8-point halftime lead.
Kansas State came out of the break with energy, hitting three field goals in the first couple of minutes after making just five field goals in the entire first half. Tennessee never lost their lead though, and behind the play of Josh Richardson and Armani Moore, were able to slide by Kansas State, who began to rally late.
Josh Richardson led the Vols with 17 points, shooting 5-11 from the field and 2-4 from deep. He also recorded 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Armani Moore seemed to play with more passion that normal tonight. “I tried to be more aggressive.” He said.
“Practice this week was all about being aggressive without fouling which is what we need to do.”
He finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds, 5 blocks, and a career high 5 assists. Moore, who is usually just a spark plug on defense with his athletic play, showed that this year he is a very well-rounded player.
“Armani makes things happen on both sides of the floor because he’s so aggressive.” Coach Tyndall said.
Tariq Owens got his first start of the season but did not impress. He missed all three of his shots and finished the game with 0 points. Willie Carmichael contributed to his team’s win with 9 points going 3-5 from the field and also a perfect 3-3 from the free-throw line. He also led the Vols with 6 rebounds.
Kansas State’s Marcus Foster finished with 23 points going 7-14 from beyond the arc. He missed all 5 of his shots in the first half but came out of the break not afraid to let it fly and was the driving force behind his team’s late rally.
One of the main reasons Kansas State lost this game was because of their turnovers.
“Those 22 turnovers are a compliment to our hustle and home court advantage.” Coach Tyndall said. “When the crowd is getting loud and chanting, ‘defense!’ It’s hard to play in that kind of environment.”
Some of these turnovers were forced by a more aggressive Tennessee defense and some were extremely careless, but regardless, the wildcats struggled to keep possession. The Vols recorded 12 steals as team, including 4 by Kevin Punter.
The Vols looked like they had the game in the bag at the one minute mark up 10 points, but due to a few 3-pointers and missed free-throws, the wildcats found themselves down 1 point at the final horn.
“It may sound corny, but that last minute showed that we are a team still trying to learn how to win.” said Coach Tyndall.
The Vols now face a tough stretch in their schedule as they will play Butler on Dec. 14 and then travel to N.C. State on Dec. 17.
Edited by Maggie Jones