No. 24 Tennessee downed Texas A&M 75-62 on Saturday night behind strong efforts in both rebounding and defense. The Vols led by as many as 14 points, but let it get down to six with 3:19 remaining in the game.
The Aggies made a push late in the game, but experience by the young Volunteers made a difference in the final minutes. At the 9:45 mark, A&M began to full-court press Tennessee, but Jordan Bone, Admiral Schofield and Lamonte Turner proved to be too experienced for the Aggies pressure.
“We don’t practice it much” Bone said. “The coaching staff believes in us to be able to handle situations like that … it’s about protecting the ball.”
The Vols only committed 10 turnovers on the night, but the majority came in the last few minutes of the game.
“We got sloppy with the ball, but give A&M credit, their guards turned it up a little bit and we didn’t handle pressure the way we wanted to,” said Barnes. “But overall, I thought our defense played well, the way they get the ball inside … it’s not easy to defend.”
Admiral Schofield believed after the win over Vanderbilt that Kyle Alexander would have to play a big role in keeping a tall Texas A&M team off of the glass.
“He hasn’t tapped into anything, the skill set is there,” Schofield said. “The biggest thing for (Kyle) is he likes to compete. When there’s a (highly touted) guy in the league, Kyle really takes that challenge on like the rest of us.”
Alexander put a late-game dagger in the Tigers with a layup after a block on the other end.
Admire this Kyle Alexander dagger in all of its beauty… pic.twitter.com/vsWIMY2FUx
— Houston Kress (@VolRumorMill) January 14, 2018
Tennessee has let several big games this year slip away after holding leads by double digits, and that is the biggest thing the Vols are working on as of late.
“The adjustment that we made is, we’re taking that challenge on every night,” Schofield said. “We’re not just out there playing basketball, we’re out there to fight, and that’s the mindset we have.”
Coach Barnes praised the Aggies and their coaching. Texas A&M has out-rebounded opponents by an average of 8.5 rebounds per game and record 43 total rebounds on average.
“(Texas A&M) is a very difficult team to guard, they get the ball inside which I love,” Barnes said. “I love the way Billy coaches this team and the way they play, it’s not easy to defend.”
Tennessee will go on the road in its next game to face the Missouri Tigers on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET.