No. 16 Tennessee dominates Mississippi State on the road

No. 16 Tennessee (22-7, 12-5 SEC) dominated a red-hot Mississippi State team on Tuesday night in Humphrey Coliseum, 76-54. The Vols were virtually unstoppable in the second half of the game, knocking down 11 consecutive field goals at one point.

Before dropping Tuesday’s bout to the Vols, Mississippi State had won its previous three games and seven out of the last 10.

Considered to be one of the hottest teams in the league, the Bulldogs made it tough for the Vols at the beginning of the game, jumping out to a 25-18 lead in the first half.

Admiral Schofield, who served as the co-SEC player of the week coming off of a career-high 24 points, once again proved to be one of the key players behind Tennessee’s success this season.

Schofield matched last weeks point total with 24 and also added seven rebounds and a block with 33 minutes of game time.

Schofield finished Saturday’s contest against Ole Miss with 35 minutes, proving to be one of the most durable players on Rick Barnes’ team.

Previous to its loss to Tennessee on Tuesday evening, Mississippi State was 18-1 at home this season and its only loss was to then-No. 22 Auburn.

The close game continued into the second half as the Bulldogs were down only four points closing in on the first media timeout.

Barnes’ team began to light up the scoreboard, shooting 15-of-22 in the second half of the contest.

“We got some real good execution playing inside out,” Barnes said. “When we move the ball and play together, we’re capable of (doing what we did tonight).”

Lamar Peters, the player who shared co-SEC player of the week last week with Admiral Schofield, was bested by Schofield in the game, getting outscored 24-7. Peters finished the game 3-of-10 with a turnover.

Lamonté Turner played a big role in the game for the Vols, especially from outside the arc. Turner nailed two three pointers and logged 29 minutes off the bench, finishing a perfect 4-for-4.

Turner knows his head coach is looking forward to the SEC tournament but isn’t taking road wins for granted at this point in the season.

“Coach Barnes didn’t complain about anything after the game,” Turner said. “I’m kind of worried about him, he must be sick or something.”

The Orange-and-White will face Georgia on Saturday for their Senior Day to honor the lone senior on the team, James Daniel III.

With the win, Tennessee ties Auburn for first place in the SEC at 12-5.

James Daniel III finished with three points on 1-of-1 shooting against Mississippi State and his only make came when he connected on a deep bomb which banked in from deep outside the three-point line with the shot clock running down.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Takeaways from No. 18 Tennessee’s loss to Georgia

No. 18 Tennessee (19-7, 9-5 SEC) experienced another upset Saturday night in a game against Georgia (15-11, 6-8). The Vols never held a sturdy lead at any point. Here are the takeaways from Tennessee’s 73-62 loss in Stegeman Coliseum.

Pretenders or contenders?

National and local media hyped up the Vols in recent weeks.

Some claimed the Vols could land a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, but Tennessee hasn’t been performing well since the hype began.

After dropping a road game to Alabama, the Vols followed it up with a terrible loss in front of a sold out Georgia crowd. If Tennessee wants to be a contender and not a pretender, it will have to learn to win big conference road games.

Tennessee started the season hot, winning neutral-site games over Purdue and NC State, but if this team wants to be a top-3 seed, it will have to learn how to pull out rivalry wins.

Young Vols will learn to put pressure on opponents

Down two points with under five minutes to go in the second half, coach Rick Barnes was unimpressed with his team’s decision making.

The Vols elected to take a three-pointer instead of putting pressure on the Bulldogs.

“Some of those 3’s at the end of the game, we still have time,” Barnes said. “It’s just being selfish and not understanding the game. When a team misses the front end of a one-and-one … just go down and get a point back, opposed to trying to heave up a desperation shot.”

Although Barnes was upset with his young team, he praised the Bulldog’s effort and the way they played.

“Gotta give them credit, last five minutes of the game they beat us,” Barnes said. “Any way you wanna beat somebody, they beat us.”

This team needs a star, and Barnes has his pick

Grant Williams consistently anchors inside for this Tennessee squad, and Barnes holds the bar high for his sophomore forward.

“We’re gonna see if he’s the player he wants to be. This is the time of the year where key guys step up and they play,” Barnes said. “He wasn’t very good with his defensive coverage. He didn’t execute that the way we wanted him to.”

Williams posted only five points in 25 minutes on the night for Tennessee. The Bulldogs held Williams to 1-of-8 shooting and only four rebounds.

Kyle Alexander, on the other hand, anchored Tennessee on the night, posting his second career double-double with 10 points and 13 boards.

If Tennessee wants to make a deep run, it will need both Kyle Alexander and Grant Williams to show up in the same night.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Takeaways from No. 15 Tennessee’s win at Rupp Arena

Rick Barnes and No. 15 Tennessee went into Rupp Arena on Tuesday night and knock off No. 24 Kentucky for the first time in 19 years on Tuesday evening. Tennessee basketball has been a rollercoaster ride in Barnes’ first couple of seasons, but it seems he has the team on track. Many would even say he’s ahead of schedule.

Here is what to take away from Tuesday’s win over the Wildcats.

Lamonté Turner is the go-to guy down the stretch

Turner was the reason Tennessee upended No. 3 Purdue earlier in the season, and he put the dagger in the Wildcats with only seconds remaining on the clock in Tuesday’s win over Kentucky.

Turner finished the game with 16 points and drilled four 3-pointers on his way to logging 31 minutes on the night. The redshirt-sophomore has now scored 15 or more points off of the bench seven times and has scored 20 or more points four times this season.

The Vols have needed a consistent closer and Turner has become that down this crucial stretch in conference play.

The Vols are back

The stat that will be thrown around until Tennessee plays Kentucky next season is that the Vols swept the Wildcats for the first time in 19 years.

Rick Barnes has Tennessee back in national contention in only his third year with the program, and Knoxville owes him a big pat on the back.

Tennessee, who has been knocked for its low recruiting rankings, has itself a coach that can not only bring quality and underrated players to campus, but can develop those players into some of the best players and teammates in the SEC.

Tennessee is being talked about for its chances of grabbing a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament – something that has never happened in Knoxville. Tennessee owes that solely to Barnes.

Bench play the deepest in the conference

Tennessee has seven players who log at least six points per game. Out of those seven players, all of them average over 20 minutes of game play per contest.

The Vols have not only the deepest roster in the conference, but the deepest bench as well. This is a team that has grown together tremendously since a tough 0-2 start to conference play in January.

This team relied heavily on Grant Williams throughout its tough stretches, but the depth on the roster has finally caught up to where the team wants to go – whether that is due to the development of those players by Barnes, or the unselfishness of the players, this will be a tough team to beat down the stretch if it can continue to close out games with key role players playing like they did tonight.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Lady Vols basketball preview

Head coach Holly Warlick is entering her sixth season at the helm of the Lady Vols basketball program. Warlick, posting a .736 winning percentage in her time in Knoxville, has faced a steady decline in the past two seasons.

To get back on track, Warlick will rely heavily on her freshman class, which was ranked No. 1 in the 2017 cycle. The Lady Vols are slated finished fourth in the SEC this season, as many experts aren’t sold on Warlick and her team heading into the 2017-18 season.

Last year, Tennessee fell in the second round of the NCAA tournament after reaching the Sweet Sixteen in the previous four seasons. Warlick has three Elite Eight appearances since her time in Knoxville.

Strengths

The obvious answer to this will be the incoming freshman, who put on a show in the exhibition outing versus Carson-Newman. However, I am going to go with the experience this team has.

Meme Jackson played in all 32 games last year for the Lady Vols, and although she isn’t a stat-sheet stuffer, she has grit and experience. Jackson will be an important asset to the team once it makes the NCAA tournament, and makes a push for another Elite Eight appearance. The amount of minutes Jackson has logged in the past will prove vital in postseason play.

With the departure of Diamond DeShields, Mercedes Russell took the reigns of the Lady Vols. Russell is the most important piece to this basketball team, and her experience and strength down low will allow Tennessee to play inside out this season and play to its strengths.

Russell, a 6-foot-6 Redshirt Senior out of Oregon, started every game she played in last season and posted All-SEC numbers. Averaging 16.1 points-per-game and nearly 10 rebounds, Russell will be a juggernaut to stop for opposing defenses this season.

Weaknesses 

Talent wise, there are no weaknesses on this roster. Unfortunately, the Lady Vols only played eight players in its opening game. Depth could be an issue for this Tennessee team.

Half of the eight players that played in the exhibition game were freshman, so that is not the best sign for Tennessee.

Players to watch

Keep your eye on Evina Westbrook. Posting 17 points in her first exhibition game as a Lady Vol, Westbrook will not look back this season as she must help lead this team to a deep NCAA tournament run.

Westbrook was the No. 2 overall player in the 2017 class, and she helped proved the hype is real with this freshman class. The freshmen combined for 76 of the 121 total points scored by the Lady Vols against Carson-Newman, which matched the Lady Eagles’ points total.

Westbrook was the most coveted freshman player of the Warlick’s recruiting class, but Rennia Davis could be the big-time player Tennessee has been waiting for to play on the wing. The 6-foot-2 guard/forward out of Florida is a scoring machine.Davis averaged just over 26 points-per-game as a senior in high school, and didn’t look back after posting 27 points in the opening exhibition game against Carson-Newman.

All of the freshmen will be compelling, but Davis should be the highlight reel all season long. The way Tennessee will play through Russell down in the post should open up a lot of perimeter shots for players like Davis and Westbrook.

Matchups to watch

This is a loaded schedule for the Lady Vols. With matchups against Texas, Stanford, Kentucky, Notre Dame and defending National Champion South Carolina, Tennessee will have their work set out for them this season.

The Cancun Challenge at the Hard Rock Hotel Maya Convention Center should be interesting. The Lady Vols will have a three-day stretch of vital games early on in the season. The team will face Marquette, Oklahoma State and South Dakota in consecutive games in late November. The team will learn a lot about itself in this tournament.

Prediction

The Lady Vols should finish in the top-3 of the conference this season. This team, although young, has pure talent and grit. Warlick will finally get over the hump and take Tennessee back to the Elite Eight and have a chance to move further. The Lady Vols will finish the season third in the SEC, and will be a force to be reckoned with the next couple years as they grow, mature, and make a run at another National Championship. Tennessee hosts ETSU for the regular-season opener at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports

Edited by Seth Raborn

Tennessee dominates, then falls late to Alabama

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The Volunteers fell to the Crimson Tide on Tuesday night, 63-57. With the loss, Tennessee fell to 10-10 overall and 3-5 in SEC play.

The Vols were hoping to build momentum after a solid home win against a solid South Carolina squad but failed to protect their 15-point lead in Tuscaloosa. Tennessee led for over thirty minutes during the game, but struggled to find any baskets in its half court sets in the final 10 minutes of the contest.

It is well known that Tennessee doesn’t have a true point guard on its roster. That fact was incredibly apparent during the last 12 minutes of the second half. After obtaining a 15-point lead over the Crimson Tide, the Volunteers were outscored 30-9 to close the game.

When Alabama took away the Tennessee transition baskets mid-way through the second half, the Volunteers offense began to stagnate.

“When we got that big lead, we stopped guarding. One time they got three offensive rebounds in a row. We never left the floor,” said head coach Rick Barnes.

“We didn’t deserve to win that game.”

The Vols’ leading scorer Kevin Punter managed to score 15 points while going 3-of-9 from three-point land. Punter only found a single trip to the charity stripe where he hit both of only two free throws.

Detrick Mostella, who the Vols rely on for a spark off the bench, finished with a disappointing 3-of-9 from the field and 1-of-5 from beyond the arc.

Alabama’s Retin Obasohan finished with an impressive 22 points while going 10-of-16 from the field. He also had five assists. Shannon Hale contributed 20 points and hit 9-of-10 free throws.

Both teams shot under 30 percent from behind the three-point line, but the real difference in the game was each team’s overall shooting percentage from the field.

Tennessee ended up shooting a dismal 34 percent from the field, while the Crimson Tide finished 40 percent from the field as a team.

Tennessee will be back in action on Saturday when it travels to take on TCU in a late season out-of-conference matchup.

Featured image by Ben Ozburn

Edited by Cody McClure

The Association Examination: Week One

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Ah, the first week of basketball season, when most people get all excited for the start of the NBA and then usually don’t check back ’till Christmas. But if you still want to appear like you know what you’re talking about when talking NBA with your friends but don’t feel like watching the ten games a night, stick with me. I’ll be doing the dirty work and will update you every week on teams that are surprising me, players that are struggling and which coaches need to get the hell out of town. Ready for round one?

Players that impressed me

Mo Williams- Williams is back home in Cleveland and really looked comfortable in his first game Tuesday. He was the leading scorer on the Cavs with 19 points and also had seven assists and four rebounds. The Cavs still lost to Chicago 97-95.

Steph Curry- Curry looks like he could win the MVP again this year. He came out on fire, scoring 24 points in just the first quarter in Golden State’s first game of the season. He finished with 40 points and also dished out seven assists. He was the lead scorer again on Friday, dropping 25 points on James Harden and the Rockets and scored a quiet 53 points on the Pelicans Saturday night.

Ricky Rubio- Last season, Rubio was on pace to be the worst shooter, percentage-wise, in the history of the NBA. Somehow, he was able to score 28 points on 10-17 shooting while leading the Timberwolves on a fourth quarter comeback against the Lakers Wednesday night. He also had 14 assists. While Rubio’s performance was very impressive, I’d be more impressed if he can keep it up and stay healthy, which he can never do.

Kawhi Leonard- Leonard has looked incredible so far this season. He had 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting in his first game Wednesday and then scored 16 points on Friday. The offense will continue to run through him as Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili continue their search for retirement homes.

Anthony Davis- Davis really struggled in the Pelican’s season opener against Golden State. He scored 18 points but shot 4-for-20 from the floor. He rebounded on Wednesday and Friday with two double-doubles. He’s my pick to win the MVP this year.

Rookies’ first taste

With the NBA season getting underway, let’s take a look at how some of the association’s new faces did this week.

Karl Anthony-Towns- First overall pick Towns started off his NBA career with two double-doubles in a row, making him the youngest player in the NBA to record double-doubles in his first two games. He had 14 points and 12 rebounds against the Lakers on Wednesday night and on Friday, Towns went off again and scored 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, joining Lebron James as the second teen ever in NBA history to have at least 28 points and 14 rebounds in a game. I was definitely impressed with what I saw from him this week. The skill he displayed that really convinced me that he is the real deal is his ability to create his own shot outside of the paint. He also has a great mentor in Kevin Garnett, so he will become a big part of this Minnesota team very quickly.

Jahlil Okafor- Okafor looked great in his first game as a pro. He led the 76ers in scoring with 26 points and shot 10-for-16 from the field. I think he will improve Philadelphia pretty dramatically.

Kristaps Porzingis– Porzingis was one of, if not the most unpopular pick in this year’s draft. He had a few good plays in his first game against the Bucks, but his stat line didn’t look too great. He scored 16 points on 3-of-11 shooting. I think that Knicks fans just need to chill out and let this kid develop. He has a great shot and enough skill to be a good NBA player.

D’Angelo Russell- Russell, in my opinion, was one of the most overrated players in the draft. Picking him second overall was absurd to me. He didn’t do anything in his first NBA game even though he got the nod to start. He scored only four points and barely got the ball because he has to play on the same team as Kobe Bryant. He did better on Friday night, scoring 13 points and shot 50 percent from the field.

What didn’t make sense

Here are some takeaways from the first week of the season.

The Charlotte Hornets- Being from North Carolina, I’ve followed the Hornets/Bobcats franchise since the Adam Morrison and Sean May days. As you can imagine, it’s been a hard, sad journey. They had a lot of problems last year, but shook up their roster for this season so I was expecting a little improvement. Forty percent of the Hornets’ roster played their first game as a Charlotte Hornet on Wednesday, but the team still looked like they were suffering from the same issues that ailed them last season. The offense was inconsistent, help defense was almost non-existent and they shot terribly from beyond the arc.

Frank Kaminsky- Along with the Hornets disappointing start, I’m confused by the way they are handling Kaminsky. Their top draft pick played just six minutes in his first regular season game. This kid was the college basketball player of the year last season yet only got to play 360 seconds in his first game. I apologize, I was under the impression that teams drafted players to improve their squads, not to have them hand out water to the starters who, by the way, aren’t even good.

The Memphis Grizzlies- Most people seemed ready to jump on the Grizzlies bandwagon this season, but they looked absolutely terrible in their first game against Cleveland Wednesday night. The Cavs were on the back end of a back-to-back after losing to Chicago the night before and really didn’t look that good. I really thought Memphis would come out and beat Cleveland, but they limped out of the gates, shooting 35 percent from the field and lost by 30 points. They were able to rebound after the embarrassing loss though, and got their first win of the season against the Pacers on Thursday night.

The Lakers/Kobe Bryant- I was surprised by Kobe Bryant for a couple of reasons in his season debut on Wednesday night. First off, I was impressed by him because he was the leading scorer with 24 points. He made a lot of tough shots and we got to see some vintage Kobe plays. He proved that he’s not dead yet. Secondly, I was confused because the Lakers let him shoot an absurd amount of shots. It took Kobe 24 shots to score 24 points. This cannot happen again. It just blows my mind that he was allowed to shoot this much and I think it actually cost the Lakers the game. Kobe is going to have to realize that he’s not the man anymore and just needs to take the chances that are presented to him, not force everything like he is accustomed to.

“The Association Examination” is a weekly sports column written by Tennessee Journalist assistant sports editor Jordan Dajani. The Tennessee Journalist does not necessarily agree with the viewpoints of this column.

Featured image by Thomas Delgado

Edited by Cody McClure