Vols roll over LSU without Punter

Vols win big again in Knoxville, 81-65

Shembari Phillips warms up

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Tennessee took down LSU despite missing its leading scorer Kevin Punter Saturday night, 81-65.

The Vols took a big hit before the game even started when it was announced that Punter would not play due to a right ankle injury. But Tennessee has only lost two games at home this season, and the 19,721 fans in attendance willed the Vols to another win over a solid LSU team.

Both teams started off slowly. With Punter being out and Ben Simmons not starting due to academics, Tennessee and LSU combined to go 1-for-12 in the opening minutes. Devon Baulkman was the one to finally open it up after he hit two straight three pointers, leading the Vols on a run where they made five of their next nine shots.

Tennessee played great defense, holding LSU to just 35 percent shooting from the floor in the first half. Armani Moore and Derek Reese played tough defense on Simmons in the post, double teaming him down low and did not allow any easy looks.

Detrick Mostella led Tennessee with seven first half points. The Vols only shot 34 percent from the field, but began to find their rhythm in the late stages of the first half. Antonio Blakeney led the Tigers with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting. LSU’s offense struggled to create lanes to the basket and to convert when they had their chances.

LSU came out after halftime looking even more lethargic and uninspired. The Tigers tried shaking things up by going to Simmons on almost every possession in the first few minutes, but it didn’t work. The Vols defense played great in the paint, forcing turnovers and getting down for the court for transition points.

Tennessee’s offense started to really click as its confidence and lead began to increase. The Vols shot 64 percent from the field in the second half and coasted to a blowout win over the second-place Tigers.

Robert Hubbs III led the Vols in scoring with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Moore chipped in with a complete effort, scoring 17 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out seven assists.

Blakeney scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting for the Tigers and Simmons scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

This game showed Rick Barnes that he can have faith in his bench. The guys who are usually role players stepped up big time in order to secure the win while their best player was out nursing an injury.

“Without Kevin Punter, we had to be overly aggressive,” said Hubbs III. “He’s our leading scorer and somebody has to step up and help Armani. I think we all did that tonight.”

“We weren’t in as good a sync offensively,” said Barnes. “But once we settled into a few of our half-court sets, we did start doing some things pretty well. It was really a nice win for us.”

Tennessee next travels to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks. Tip-off is set for Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

Featured image by Jordan Dajani

Edited by Cody McClure

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Jordan Dajani is a junior journalism/electronic media major from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Follow him on twitter @JDnumba3.