In Tennessee’s (5-1) 86-44 destruction of the Presbyterian Blue Hose (5-3) on Tuesday, the three-point barrage began early. The Vols’ first two shot attempts connected from deep on wide-open looks.
This was just the beginning of the monster shooting night Tennessee had. The Vols connected on 14-of-27 shots from deep with nine of the makes coming in the first half.
This mark of 14 made three-point shots is the second-most this season (17 at UT Martin) and it eclipsed the single-game total in every game the Vols played last season. This is also the fourth time this season Tennessee has hit double-digit threes in just six games played. Last season, the Vols knocked down 10 or more threes just three times.
This shows a clear effort by the Vols of leaving inefficient midrange shots behind and transitioning to the deep ball. The team shot a high-volume 46.6% of their shots from deep against Presbyterian. This stems from coach Rick Barnes’ belief in his shooters.
“We do think we can shoot the ball. On any given night, we believe somebody is going to have a hot hand,” said Barnes.
Against the Blue Hose, Justin Powell and Victor Bailey Jr. had the hot hands. Powell shot a perfect 5-for-5 from deep and Bailey shot 4-for-8.
Powell makes his living from behind the 3-point line. In his six games played so far, 57.1% of his field goal attempts came from downtown, and he is shooting 55% from three. His 15 points against Presbyterian were a season-high, but he is keeping his focus on the future.
“There’s always the next game. (Shooting 5-for-5) doesn’t really mean anything right now,” said Powell. “We got a good win, which is really good, but we got our eyes set forward to Colorado and Texas Tech. We got to keep our eyes forward, and it feels good, but always on to the next one.”
Powell spent last season at Auburn where he lit it up from three as well, shooting 44.2% in 10 games played. On the other hand, Bailey struggled to consistently shoot efficiently from three in his 2020-2021 campaign. He finished the season shooting 33.8% from beyond the arc. He found his rhythm quickly against the Blue Hose, however, sinking three 3-pointers in the first half.
“(Bailey) has always been good in practice. He’s always hitting shots in practice and he had flashes of that last year,” said Powell. “(Bailey) is still trying to figure out what he’s trying to do best out there. Obviously, he’s a great scorer and that’s what he did well tonight. He provided a lot for us in the beginning.”
Both players are not just 3-point specialists, though. They both have begun to excel on the defensive side. Many times against Presbyterian, Bailey had the assignment of guarding some of the Blue Hose’s best players. He responded well to the challenge, helping to limit Presbyterian to just 44 points in the game.
With the typical starter Josiah-Jordan James out due to injury, both Powell and Bailey have filled in as starters. It is not clear when James will return or who will continue to start in his absence, but both players have been good fits. With games against Power-5 opponents Colorado and Texas Tech on the horizon, this positive play from the duo will help drive Tennessee’s climb up the college basketball rankings.
Ryan Sylvia is the Sports Editor at TNJN. He is a junior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in journalism and electronic media. Although he spent most of his life being raised outside of Philadelphia, he was born in Knoxville, and he is happy to be back home. Ryan has had a love for sports from an early age, and he found his love for writing in high school while taking journalism classes. He hopes to find a job involving both his passions as a sports journalist after graduation. To reach Ryan, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org