Just days after nearly upsetting the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks in their own arena, the Tennessee Volunteers (12-8, 4-3 SEC) were upset by the Texas A&M Aggies (10-9, 4-3 SEC) in Knoxville.
Tennessee was favored by 9.5 points over Texas A&M according to oddsshark.com, but that did not stop the Aggies from dominating the Vols in the paint on their way to a 63-58 victory.
The Vols jumped out to a lead after the Aggies struggled to sink baskets early, but both teams could not seem to connect from beyond the arc.
Texas A&M made just 3-of-13 first-half 3-pointers while Tennessee sunk only 3-of-11.
The Vols finished the first half with 50% shooting to the Aggies’ 31%. However, the Aggies out-rebounded the Vols 20-12.
These extra chances proved to be critical, as they allowed Texas A&M to hang around and take a 25-24 lead just before halftime.
Consecutive 3-pointers from Santiago Vescovi and Yves Pons put Tennessee back on top early in the second half, but Texas A&M continued to dominate on the boards.
Though the Vols were far more efficient offensively, the Aggies would finish the night with 46 rebounds to the Vols’ 21.
“We shoot a very low field goal percentage, so we have to give ourselves the best chance we can on the offensive glass just so we can gain extra possessions,” Texas A&M Coach Buzz Williams said at the postgame press conference.
Midway through the second half, the Aggies once again pulled within a basket of the Vols before an acrobatic dunk by Aggie Andre Gordon tied the game up at 46-46 with just over six minutes to play. Moments later, a Gordon 3-pointer gave Texas A&M the lead.
Senior Jordan Bowden hit a 3-pointer to tie the game with just over a minute left in the game. Bowden has been unusually inefficient on offense since SEC play started, however his clutch shot gave the Vols a chance against the Aggies.
Wendell Mitchell quickly took that chance away with a step-back 3-pointer. The Aggie senior’s dagger found its mark with just 48 seconds left.
A minute of play later and the Aggies completed their comeback and walked off the court with a 63-58 victory.
“It’s pretty simple. When you give up 23 offensive rebounds and you only get three yourself, I’m not sure you deserve to win the game and that’s what I told our guys,” Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes said at the postgame press conference.
Tennessee’s loss to the Aggies comes on the back of a 74-68 loss at No. 3 Kansas.
“It’s tough. It really is. Especially when you feel like we were making strides forward when we went up against a team ranked third in the country on their court and fought them,” Barnes said.
Perhaps Tennessee’s most important fight against Texas A&M was fought at the glass, where the Aggies dominated the Vols the entire game.
“It is just disappointing. Really disappointing knowing that they out-touched us and won more, but that is just what it was tonight,” Tennessee forward John Fulkerson said at the postgame press conference. “They out-rebounded us by 20 plus. That is just embarrassing. It is not who we are.”
While his team struggled with the Aggies’ physical play on the court, Barnes was in a struggle of his own with the referees.
After arguing with the referees over calls against Tennessee for much of the game, an official bumped Barnes.
“It shouldn’t happen in any way shape or form and I’d like to say what I want to say, but I won’t because I trust the SEC office will do the right thing,” Barnes said on the officiating.
Barnes and the Vols now have under four days to figure out their rebounding issues before traveling to Starkville, Mississippi to face Mississippi State on Saturday. Tip-off on Feb. 1 is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Humphrey Coliseum.
Edited by Ryan Sylvia and Ben Gleason
Featured image courtesy of Christian Knox