Tennessee defeated by LSU in SEC opener

The Vols lost to the Tigers to open SEC play due to poor second half shooting.

Santiago Vescovi shoots a three-pointer when Tennessee played LSU on Jan. 4, 2020. Photo/ Tennessee Basketball Twitter (@Vol_Hoops)

Tennessee (8-5, 0-1 SEC) fell to Louisiana State (9-4, 1-0 SEC) on Saturday afternoon to open the Vols’ SEC slate. A newcomer saw his first playing time with the Vols on Saturday, as freshman Santiago Vescovi started in place of the injured Lamonte Turner. Vescovi, a 6 foot 3 inch product from the NBA Global Academy in Australia, just recently joined the Tennessee program.

Tennessee Men’s Basketball Coach Rick Barnes addressed Vescovi at the postgame press conference.

“He got tired. He’s going to make some mistakes, and we’re going to live with it because he’s trying to start the season in the middle of the season and his first game was a conference game,” Barnes said. “There’s no doubt that everybody saw that he’s got a chance to be a terrific player, and he’s a guy who wants to distribute the ball. He’ll learn. He’ll watch tape.”

Tennessee jumped out to an early lead with the help of two three-pointers from Vescovi. However, Vescovi struggled on defense and with turnovers throughout the game, and the freshman accounted for nine of the Vols’ 14 turnovers.

“I felt confident. I know I need to get rid of those turnovers,” Vescovi said.

Offensive efficiency helped Tennessee stay afloat in the first half as the Vols outpaced LSU 45% to 38% in the half.

Turnovers allowed LSU to creep back in. The Vols led the Tigers 10-6 in first half turnovers, and Javonte Smart’s late three-pointer gave LSU a 38-37 lead at halftime.

Tennessee’s struggles were not fixed in the locker room, and the Vols’ situation only got worse in the second half.

In the second half, the Vols’ shooting percentage dropped to under 35% while the Tigers’ jumped up to just under 58%.

With Turner out for the season, the Vols needed Jordan Bowden to step up, especially on the offensive side of the floor. However, Bowden could not get going in either half and ended the game 1-of-12 from the floor although he also led the Vols with six assists.

“I know he got frustrated. Like we all, when he shoots, he thinks it’s going to go in. He’s proven that to us,” Barnes said. “We just have to work through it. I wish I had some magic dust I could sprinkle, but we don’t.”

Despite leading the Tigers with 34 total rebounds to 33, the Vols could not get enough possessions or stops to make a comeback with their deteriorating second half shooting.

While some of the older Vols struggled, one bright spot for the Tennessee team came courtesy of strong play by some of the younger players.

“We’re going to need [John Fulkerson] and [Yves Pons], and we need [Bowden]. We need those guys to be stellar every night,” Barnes said. “We need those guys, because today the demeanor with our young guys was terrific, and Santiago earned the respect of his teammates the very first day he came out there.”

Tennessee will play Missouri next on Jan. 7. Tipoff in Columbia is slated for 7 p.m. EST.

 

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Basketball’s Twitter (@Vol_Hoops)

Edited by Ben Gleason and Libby Dayhuff