Tennessee had a rough night at the office, falling to 0-2 in SEC play after a 94-84 loss to Auburn. Here are four quick takeaways on a bad night for the Vols.
1 — Guys seriously, that first half… — Tennessee jumped all over Auburn in the early going, building a 28-14 lead with 11:52 left in the first half and then seemingly just hit the ‘off’ button on their effort and execution.
The Tigers closed the half by outscoring the Vols 28-8 to take a 42-36 half-time lead in a game that they looked on the verge of being a blowout before some fans had even settled into their seats.
If you’re a Tennessee fan I hope you were in the building for those first 10 minuets, because that was definitely the best part of the night from an Orange perspective.
From my seat it looked like Auburn simply started outworking the Vols starting at around the 10 minute mark.
The Tigers beat the Vols to loose balls, made hustle plays and started CRUSHING Tennessee on the offensive glass. That was a theme all night long but it really helped Auburn overcome that early 14 point deficit and claw itself back in the game.
Auburn ended the first half with 13 offensive boards which they turned into 15 second chance points. That was enormous and allowed the Tigers to take a 42-26 lead at the half despite shooting just 36% from the floor.
For the Vols was it effort? Execution? An Arkansas hangover?
I don’t have the answer but the malaise arrived out of nowhere and it most certainly carried over to the second half.
Grant Williams went just 1-for-4 in the first half and second leading scorer Jordan Bowden was 0-for-3 from the field, so the Vols had trouble getting some of their more reliable offensive performers going early.
That was a problem, but doesn’t explain away the rebounding issue.
College basketball is a game with some crazy momentum swings, we all know that, but rarely will you see a team start out as hot as Tennessee did tonight and then completely fall off to the degree that the Vols did in the final 30 minutes.
2 — This rebounding thing is going to be a problem — Tennessee far from a perfect basketball team but one shortcoming that’s going to show up more and more in SEC play is the rebounding.
Tennessee struggled on the glass during the non-conference slate, ending those 12 games with just a +2.3 rebounding margin despite playing a mix of mid-majors.
Auburn just took it to the Vols on the glass tonight, winning that battle 46-38 but the offensive boards were the real issue all night long. As touched on above, the real problem was on the offensive glass where Auburn managed to collect 22 offensive rebounds which were turned into 28 second chance points.
Several of the second chance opportunities were absolute killers.
Late in the game with Tennessee trying to claw its way back on time the Tigers made three three-pointers in the span of five minutes which were all the result of offensive rebounds and second chance looks at the basket.
That’s nine points, in a game the Vols just lost by 10.
That’s not the only reason Tennessee lost this game, but if I’m running the film session after this one, that’s a segment that gets a lot of attention.
Furthermore, you can’t play the size card in this one. Auburn doesn’t start a player taller than 6-foot-7, center Anfernee McLemore. They come off the bench with a couple of 6-foot-8 guys, but by no means is this a case where the Vols got overwhelmed by a bigger, more physical team in the paint.
That didn’t happen. Tennessee got out hustled, and for a team with the limitations this one has, that needs to be a huge concern.
One of the most remarkable statistics from tonight was simply the field goal attempt numbers. Thanks to their work on the offensive glass and the fact that they turned the ball over just 10 times, Auburn took 74 shots to just 58 for Tennessee.
3 — Turner shows up — It’s hard to find a bright spot for the Vols after they fell to 0-2 in SEC play, but if you’re going in that direction you’ve got to give Lamonte Turner a shout out.
It’s been a tough few weeks for Turner. Since he saved Tennessee’s bacon with 24 points at Georgia Tech the sophomore has really struggled from the floor. He went 8-for-37 from the floor in the four games following the win over the Yellow Jackets, before starting to snap out of that funk a bit with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting at Arkansas.
He was instant offense off the bench for the Vols tonight who would have run out of their own building had Turner not shown up.
He finished with a career high 25 points in a losing effort, going 5-of-8 from the floor and a perfect 13-for-13 from the foul line.
His work at the charity stripe was in large part a result of his aggressive mentality, trying to get into the paint instead of just settling for jump shots.
Barnes has been on Turner to be more than just a catch and shoot guy and his play in the last two games shows that he’s heeding that call.
It wasn’t enough to get Tennessee over the hump, but getting Turner to up his game would be a boost for a backcourt that struggles with consistency.
4 — Finally, enough time has passed that… — It no longer feels like an emotional game of tug-of-war for Vol fans when they see Bruce Pearl on the opposing bench.
Maybe I’m wrong and you don’t personally feel that way, but it no longer feels like a big deal to me when he’s in the building.
He’s a familiar face, and there is obviously a ton of history between he and the Vols, but it’s not something that seems to tear people up like it did the first couple of years he was back on the sideline.
It’s kind of like an ex-girlfriend that you had a nice run with and things ended badly. The first few times that you bump into each other it’s event, maybe something that sends you off on a bender or into a depressed funk.
But time heals all wounds and maybe after awhile when you think of her, you no longer want to lock yourself inside a ‘glass cage of emotion.’ Maybe you’re not entirely over her, but at least you can live your life.
Then finally, one day the moment arrives when you do think of her, you might actually find yourself smiling, thinking about the good times you had (Memphis, St. Louis, etc.) and you have officially moved on.
It took awhile, but I feel like that’s finally where Tennessee fans are with Bruce, or at least most of them.