The Vols got off to a bit of a slow start and trailed the Broncos 30-27 at the half. Tennessee took control in the second half by holding Santa Clara scoreless for the first 9:37 minutes of play after intermission. Here are five observations from Tennessee’s 64-57 win over the Broncos.
Josh Richardson is a Star: Tennessee’s senior guard scored 18 points on 7-16 shooting and made several massive shots. His assertiveness offensively, which truly emerged during UT’s NCAA Tournament run late last season, is a great sign for this team moving forward. Richardson entered the game third in the SEC in scoring (18 ppg) and 3-point shooting (40%). Even playing out of position at point guard, he could be in for an All-SEC year.
McGhee and Moore Provide Spark: True freshman forward Jabari McGhee was absolutely huge off the bench. He went 4-5 from the floor for 8 points and added a team-high nine rebounds in addition to two steals. Perhaps more impressive, he committed just one turnover in 19 minutes of play. His energy was huge for the Vols, especially after Woodson and Carmichael got into early foul trouble.
Armani Moore scored a career-high 18 points on 4-8 shooting (10-12 from the FT line) while adding six rebounds and three assists. One of Tennessee’s most experienced players, Moore will be expected to score more than the 3.1 points per game that he averaged last year.
Vols Win Board and TO Battle: The Vols bested the Broncos on the glass by a 34-25 margin. Tennessee collected 14 offensive rebounds to Santa Clara’s six. According to KenPom.com, the rank second nationally in offensive rebound percentage. Tyndall’s teams typically finish near the top of the conference in rebounding. Santa Clara turned it over 13 times to Tennessee’s 12, giving the Vols a narrow victory in the turnover category. Twelve turnovers against a guard centric team like the Broncos is a solid number, especially for a team without a true point guard.
New System Starting to Click: The young Vols are clearly starting to grasp Tyndall’s system. Their defense was downright smothering at times and they spaced the floor much better on offense. They have a ton of offensive and defensive looks they haven’t been able to run yet. As the Vols continue to master the basics, they’ll become more multiple on both ends of the floor. Don’t sleep on this team once SEC play starts.
NCAA? No Distraction: If the resignation of two staff members and the NCAA’s investigation into Donnie Tyndall and Southern Miss was a distraction, the Vols certainly didn’t play like it. They were a bit tentative early, but that’s a common trend among teams learning a new system. Tennessee was favored by seven points by Vegas and predicted to win by four points by KenPom.com – and they won by seven. Simply put, they settled into the game and took care of business despite off-the-court turmoil.
The Vols return to the floor tomorrow to face the winner of Kansas/Rhode Island. That game will be played at 12 pm and will be televised by ESPN.