You may not consider Texas A&M as one of Tennessee’s main rivals, but the returning players for the Vols definitely marked this game on their calendars.
A&M beat the Vols both times they played last year when they were a team that Tennessee expected to beat handily. Once again, Tennessee wasn’t able to defeat A&M on their home floor as the Aggies left town with a 67-61 victory.
The Vols started off fairly well against Texas A&M’s zone. They were running the baseline and making the defense collapse, leaving the perimeter open. They did settle for the long-ball though, as 4 of their first 6 field goals were three-pointers, but they still were able to keep the game close. Texas A&M did a great job moving the ball around on offense and recorded 8 first half assists. Tennessee then began to struggle on offense midway through the first half and allowed A&M to go on a 10-0 run, which was snapped by two three-pointers by Kevin Punter. Punter started an 8-0 run by himself as the game progressed toward the 5 minute mark. Alex Caruso led A&M to a 25-23 halftime lead with 5 points on 2-6 shooting. He also recorded 5 rebounds.
Armani Moore went 0-3 from the field in the first half but was able to go 4-4 from the line to give him four first half points. He also had three blocks in the first 20 minutes of action. Derek Reese struggled from the field, going 1-6 from the floor and 0-3 from deep, finishing the first half with 2 points and 5 rebounds. Kevin Punter went 2-2 from 3 and 2-2 from the charity stripe to finish with 8 first half points.
He was the only bright spot in Tennessee’s offense.
Josh Richardson struggled, going 1-6 from the field and 0-2 from deep to finish with 2 first half points. Devon Baulkman created a nice run by himself in the first half by scoring 7 straight points on 2-3 shooting from the field and also knocked down 2 free throws.
Tennessee shot a dismal 6-24 from the field and 3-12 from deep. They did maintain a perfect free throw percentage though, going 8-8 from the line. They settled for jump-shots and only recorded 4 points in the paint.
Texas A&M came out of the locker room hot and started a 7-0 run, and the Vols struggled to finish easy looks. The lead was then extended to 17 behind Jones and House’s shooting. The Vols rallied late with some big 3’s by Punter, Richardson and Hubbs III, but A&M’s free throw shooting put the game away.
Texas A&M had three players in double figures. Jalen Jones went 8-13 from the floor for 18 points, and he also grabbed 9 rebounds. Alex Caruso scored 13 points on 4-8 shooting including a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed 6 rebounds. Danuel House scored 15 points on 4-12 shooting, thanks to his perfect free throw shooting, 6-6 from the line. A&M shot 25-52 from the floor and 12-15 from the free throw line, which kept them in the driver’s seat until the final horn.
The Vols also had 3 players in double figures. Kevin Punter went 5-9 from the field and 5-7 from the three point line to score a team high of 17 points. Josh Richardson shot 5-13 from the field and 2-6 from deep to score 12 points. Robert Hubbs III scored 12 points on 4-8 shooting, and Armani Moore scored 8 points on 2-9 shooting. Derek Reese struggled shooting the ball, going 2-7 from the floor and 1-4 from deep for 5 total points.
Coach Tyndall was not happy with his team’s energy level coming into this game, and the players noticed too.
“We weren’t aggressive from the beginning,” said Hubbs III. “But now we know what we need to do, and we will get back to work tomorrow.”
“Complacent” was a word that was thrown around a lot during the post-game press conference. Some players agreed, like Josh Richardson. “We were settling against the zone,” he said.
Kevin Punter disagreed.
“No we weren’t complacent. Every game we come out trying to win and that doesn’t change. I mean, yeah they were big inside. Was it a big factor? … only a few times during the game.”
Tennessee shot 52 balls tonight, and 29 of them were from deep. They did a decent job collapsing the zone and getting into the paint in the beginning of the game but failed to do so for the rest of the match, leading to bad shot selection.
The Vols will try to rebound in Arkansas at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Edited by Maggie Jones