No. 24 Tennessee beat Lipscomb 81-71 in a sloppy Saturday afternoon game during finals week. Whether it was the dread of finals, or looking forward to next week’s matchup against No. 11 North Carolina, Tennessee came out flat, and not much changed throughout the game.
With the win, Tennessee moves to 7-1 on the season, which is its best start since 2010-11.
Tennessee had sour flashbacks from last season’s matchup against Lipscomb. A year ago, John Fulkerson left the game with a broken wrist and dislocated elbow as the Vols trailed at halftime.
Lipscomb scored 58 first half points last season against the Vols, and Rick Barnes made a point that they still pulled it out in the end of this year’s back-and-forth game.
“We wouldn’t have won this game last year, we beat these guys last year, but I think they’re a better basketball team this year than they were last year,” Barnes said. “The fact is, we were doing some good things on defense, but we can still get better. We’ve had some guys really grind it out for us in some games to get the win.”
Tennessee has been questionable when it comes to closing out inferior opponents this season, and not much was different in this one. With Eli Pepper of Lipscomb fouling out late, the Vols still had a tough time stepping on Lipscomb, but the Vols got it done.
Grant Williams stepped up late for the Vols, as he finished with 19 points and eight rebounds. Williams was consistent on both offense and defense late in the game, as he led the team in both points in rebounds.
— Chierstin Susel (@ChierstinSusel) December 9, 2017
The two transfer guards for Tennessee, Chris Darrington and James Daniel III seemed to look as if they had been playing together for years, as the two connected on almost every pass to and from each other.
“When you’re out there with guys who are hungry to score, it makes your job a lot easier,” Daniel III said. “You know they’re going to cut hard, you know they’re going to sprint the floor hard, because they want the ball to score in open spots.”
The two transfer guards will have to perform well for this team to make a deep run, and this game is a good sign for that to come. Along with hounding opposing guards up the court, Daniel III and Darrington combined for 23 points and 7 assists in the game — not bad for two players that both come off of the bench.
No. 24 Tennessee will face No. 11 North Carolina next Sunday at 3 p.m. after an eight-day break.
Edited by Ben McKee
Feature image courtesy of UT Sports