The Vols fell to NC State, 83-72, in their first true road game of the year. NC State got back in the win column after losing at home to Wofford on Sunday while the Vols fell to 1-4 away from Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee didn’t leave Raleigh unscathed. Freshman forward Jabari McGhee left the game with a lower extremity injury. He was spotted on the bench wearing a boot on his right foot. Donnie Tyndall said after the game that the team believes it could be a fifth metatarsal injury – that could sideline McGhee for at least six weeks.
Here are six observations from the game.
Vols Fight, Go 2-1 in Three Tough Games: There’s no denying Tennessee plays hard for 40 minutes. Despite being behind for nearly the entire game, they made NC State work for the victory. They fought and, even though it looked like a sure loss in the waning minutes, they never quit. Tennessee went 2-1 in games against No. 15 Butler, Kansas State and NC State – a three game stretch in which many thought the Vols would go winless. Those three teams should be in the NCAA Tournament when March rolls around. The Vols head home for four winnable games to close out their non-conference schedule and should enter SEC play with an 8-4 record.
First Half Woes: Tennessee is 4-4 this season but has held a first half lead just once. The Vols have outscored opponents by 3.5 points per game in the second half this year but will have to be better in the first half to knock off teams of NC State’s caliber moving forward.
Punter Steps Up Again: Fresh off an 18-point performance against No. 12 Butler, Kevin Punter scored 14 points against NC State on 4-7 shooting. Punter entered Sunday’s contest with Butler averaging 9.2 points per game and really seems to be finding his stride. Tennessee could use more attempts from him the rest of the season – seven isn’t enough – but it’s a great sign that he was able to turn in yet another efficient offensive performance against a good team.
Turnovers? No Problem: Tennessee won the turnover battle against Butler by seven and won it again on Wednesday night by five (10-5). Josh Richardson has played 73 minutes the last two games and has exactly zero turnovers. That’s almost unbelievable for someone playing out of position. His ability to take care of the basketball and run Tennessee’s offense has been huge the last few games. He kept the Vols in this game. Five turnovers from a team as young as Tennessee on the road is impressive, especially considering they turned it over 19 times just last month against VCU.
Vols Make 3s, Give Up 3s: Shooting from beyond the arc has been an area where the Vols have struggled this season. That wasn’t the case against NC State. The Vols shot 55.6% from the 3-point line (10-18) yet were outscored by the Wolfpack from deep (11-26, 42.3%). LSU transfer Ralston Turner burned UT from 3-point range (8-17) on the way to a career-high 33 points.
Post Players Need More Production: The Vols desperately need more production from their post players. Armani Moore has been a consistent scorer and rebounder for this team and Wednesday was no different – he had 14 points and five rebounds. Tennessee’s other post players combined for 10 fouls, eight points and seven rebounds. Along with Moore, Tennessee plays three true freshman at forward. Their struggles aren’t surprising given their youth, but getting more production from the Vol forwards will be key as the season progresses.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) December 18, 2014