The Tennessee Volunteers moved to 1-0 in the SEC and 9-4 overall with a 61-47 victory over Mississippi State on Wednesday night. Playing just their second true road game of the year, the Vols got off to a 12-0 start on the way to their first road win of the season. Here are five observations from the game.
Vol Defense Smothering: Mississippi State scored just five points in the first nine minutes and forty seconds of the second half as the Vols built a commanding 17-point lead. The Vols also opened the game hot defensively – they held Mississippi State to seven points in the first 12:19 of play. No one will confuse Mississippi State with an offensive juggernaut, but that shouldn’t minimize what the Vols were able to do defensively for stretches of the game.
Punter, Baulkman Step Up: Josh Richardson played just 12 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble but junior guard Devon Baulkman had 10 first half points to guide the Vols to a 26-23 halftime lead. Kevin Punter scored 10 points in the second half on the way to a game high 15 points before he fouled out with 3:07 to play. Josh Richardson was just 3-13 from the floor for 11 points – that made getting 39 combined points from Punter, Baulkman, Mostella and Hubbs even more important.
Fouls on Fouls on Fouls: Sixty-six free throws were attempted in Humphrey Coliseum on Wednesday night – that’s far too many. College basketball is on the verge of having an officiating crisis on its hands. The game had no rhythm and multiple plays that should have been no calls were whistled. Tennessee was called for a whopping 32 fouls, including this “foul” on Kevin Punter.
This was the "foul" call on Punter. Literally didn't touch him. https://t.co/RHPBgWJzu8
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) January 8, 2015
Though Mississippi State attempted twice as many free throws (44) as the Vols (22), the Bulldogs only outscored UT by seven at the charity stripe.
2-point Struggles: Seven – that’s the number of 2-point baskets the Vols made against the Bulldogs. Tennessee was 7-28 (25%) from 2-point range but a scorching 10-20 from deep and 17-22 (77%) from the charity stripe. Though the Vols pulled out the win, they didn’t finish around the bucket and they settled for too many jumpers. They’ll have to be more efficient offensively on Saturday to beat Alabama.
Vols Own Boards: The Bulldogs entered Wednesday’s contest averaging a 6.2 rebound advantage per game and ranked in the top-100 in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage by KenPom.com. Rebounding was a big point of emphasis in practice headed into the game for a Vol team that had struggled on the glass for much of the season. The result? Tyndall’s team owned the glass by a 44-28 margin. That’s definitely a good sign for the Vols as they head into what is assured to be a physical matchup with Alabama (11-3) on Saturday (2 pm in Thompson-Boling Arena, SEC Network).
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) January 8, 2015