Tennessee downed Mercer 64-54 Monday night to move to 5-0 at home this season. Here are five observations from the Vol victory.
Baulkman Emerging as a Scorer: Tennessee junior guard Devon Baulkman scored eight points in the first half to lead Tennessee and exploded for 14 points in the second half – good for a career high 22 points. “I certainly don’t expect him to score 22 points a game, but I thought he’d be a guy that could average 8, 9 or 10 a game for us,” Tyndall said.
Baulkman was 7-9 from the floor, had six rebounds two steals, one block and just one turnover in 21 minutes of play. He’s 8-11 from 3-point range and has scored in double-figures the last three games.
Vols Defense Stifling: Mercer’s leading scorer Ike Nwamu had 13 points in the first half on 4-8 shooting – the rest of his team had two points on 0-14 shooting. The Bears shot 18.2% in the first half and 32.6% for the game. Nwamu went off for 30 points on 9-18 shooting, but the rest of Mercer was an ice cold 6-28 from the floor.
Turnovers City: Tennessee and Mercer combined for 19 first half turnovers. The Vols finished the game with 16 turnovers – 10 in the first half and six in the second – a team high since turning it over 19 times in a season-opening loss to VCU on November 14th. Josh Richardson had three turnovers after having just two TOs in 111 minutes of play the previous three games. Armani Moore led the team with six turnovers.
Credit Tennessee for turning Mercer over 15 times and for committing just six turnovers in the second half. Despite having one more TO than the Bears, the Vols outscored led Mercer 18-9 in points off turnovers.
First Half Woes Cured?: The Vols entered the game with Mercer with a 5-4 record but had only held the halftime lead once this season. Tyndall’s team got off to a slow start but closed the first half strong on the way to a 27-15 halftime lead. A Robert Hubbs III jumper tied the game at 13 with 7:30 to play in the first half. From there, Tennessee went on a 14-2 run to end the first period.
Tyndall wasn’t ready to say that his team has taken a step forward with their first half play, but did offer this take with a smile: “It was nice to have a lead at the half, I’ll say that.” Taking care of business in the first half will be a big step for this young team moving forward. We’ll see if they can replicate it Saturday when Tennessee State comes to town (8:30 pm tip, SEC Network).
Vols Rewarded With a Day Off: Had Tennessee lost to Mercer, they would have practiced tomorrow. Instead, Tyndall will reward his team with a day off. “I don’t want anyone in their getting shots up. Get completely away. This was our fourth game in nine days,” Tyndall said. The Vols will practice the morning of Christmas Eve and will go to Tyndall’s house for Christmas dinner on the 25th before practicing that evening.