After struggling in its season opener, Tennessee responded impressively in Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday night, beating Appalachian State 103-94. Tonight marked the first time since 2011 that Tennessee scored over 100 points in a non-exhibition.
In a stark contrast to their game Friday against Chattanooga where they shot a woeful 33 percent, the Vols made 56 percent of their field goals tonight. Although the game started back and forth, Tennessee blew the lead wide open, going on a 27-4 run in the latter portion of the first half.
“I thought we were much more aggressive offensively, taking the shots we want to take,” head coach Rick Barnes said.
In his post-game press conference after Tennessee’s loss to Chattanooga, Barnes said the Vols’ struggle to score came from the hesitation to shoot open shots in rhythm, especially from three. That was not a problem against App State, as the Vols went 8-for-19 (42 percent) from beyond the arc.
Most of those shots came within their half-court offense as well. Seven different players had at least two assists, and as a team, Tennessee tallied assists on 26 of their 35 made field goals.
Throughout the night, Tennessee rotated 11 different players. All 11 players logged at least seven minutes, with 10 of them scoring (the lone exception: Lew Evans). Barnes, trying to solidify a lineup he can trust, gave freshman Jordan Bowden his first career start.
When Barnes was asked what sparked the decision to start Bowden, he responded it was purely offensive.
“We think he can score the ball,” Barnes said. “And what did he do tonight?”
Primarily scoring from the three-point line (4-for-8), Bowden tallied 14 points. He was one of six Volunteers that scored in double figures. Robert Hubbs III bounced back from a rough night from the field in the season opener, scoring a team-high 16 points.
Perhaps the best performance of the night came from Kyle Alexander, who had 13 points along with seven rebounds and two blocks.
“We only called two plays for Kyle,” Barnes said. “Everything else he got within the flow of the offense.”
However, despite leading by as much as 26, Tennessee’s sloppy second half defense allowed Appalachian State to claw back into the game.
“Our help defense was better,” Barnes said. “I just thought we didn’t do the job we needed to do guarding the ball… I’ll have to check the tape.”
In the final minute, the Mountaineers managed to cut the deficit to seven points. Only when Kyle Alexander sunk the final free throw to push the lead back to 11 could Vol fans breathe easy.
“I thought our energy dropped when we got the lead,” Barnes said. “We just let down (towards the end).”
Barnes will have some time to make adjustments, but the Vols have a relatively short turnaround before they travel Thursday for the Maui Invitational. Their first game in Maui is next Monday, November 21, against No. 9 Wisconsin.
Edited by Dalton King
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics