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5 Observations from Tennessee’s 67-61 loss to Texas A&M

Donnie Tyndall-1-21

It was a disappointing performance for Donnie Tyndall’s team on Saturday afternoon in Thompson Boling Arena as the visiting Aggies were able to escape with a 67-61 win in a game that probably shouldn’t have been as close as the final score indicated. Texas A&M hit clutch shots time after time and repeatedly gave Tennessee a lot of trouble with their length and athleticism when the Aggies opted to press or settled into their 2-3 zone defense. With the loss, Tennessee now drops to 12-6 overall and 4-2 in SEC play.

Here are five key takeaway’s from today’s game:

Points in the paint: One look at the stat sheet will tell you exactly where the Vols were beaten on Saturday afternoon. Texas A&M used size and length to their advantage throughout the game and owned the paint against a Tennessee team that hasn’t been able to find a consistent post presence all season. The Aggies would score 30 of their 67 points from close range while the Vols only managed 10 points in the paint on the afternoon – thanks, in large part, to several misses from point blank range. Here was Tyndall’s response when asked if Texas A&M’s size caused his team trouble throughout the game.

“When you win, I don’t make excuses that our size wasn’t good enough,” Tyndall said. “When you lose, you don’t want to start saying, “Well size bothered us.” But in reality some nights it’s going to bother us. When you make three’s or you get to the foul line a lot, sometimes it compensates for the lack of size and physicality we have. We’re not going to start making excuses when you can go beat a physical South Carolina team. Now you’ve got to come home and be just as physical against a good Texas A&M team, and we weren’t, we just weren’t. Give Texas A&M credit because they were very physical.” ​

Kevin Punter: While points in the paint were hard to come by, Kevin Punter found smoother sledding elsewhere and did his best to keep the Vols in the game by banging home five three-pointers on 5-of-7 shooting from long range. Punter would score a career-high 17 points on the afternoon and was the second-half spark that could have potentially led to a comeback win if not for some clutch shooting by the Aggies down the stretch. Over the last three games Punter is averaging 14 points and 33 minutes of play, and appears to be emerging as a solid secondary scorer to Josh Richardson. The Vols will need Punter to continue his strong play moving forward as teams begin to focus much more of their defensive efforts on Richardson, who, until Saturday, had been Tennessee’s most consistent player all year.

Josh Richardson: It was bound to happen eventually, but Saturday was the first time that you began to see signs that Josh Richardson may be wearing down a bit entering the second half of SEC play. Richardson, who has played less than 30 minutes in only one game this season, didn’t play horribly, but never really looked like his normal self against the Aggies and struggled to find his usual scoring rhythm. The senior is averaging just under 35 minutes per game while running the point for the offense and being the lead defender in Tennessee’s press and 1-3-1 zone, which doesn’t exactly make for light work in Donnie Tyndall’s system. Richardson would score 12 points on the afternoon, but half of his points came in the final minutes of the game as the Vols were desperately trying to eat into an Aggie lead that swelled to as many as 17 after halftime. There is zero debate that Richardson is the player that makes this team go, and the staff will have to be very careful with how they manage his minutes over the second half of the season.

Team fatigue: It wasn’t just Richardson, however. The lack of depth and increased minutes may be impacting the rest of the team as well. It’s hard to guarantee that team fatigue is an issue, but something just seemed off with the Vols on Saturday afternoon. A crowd of 16,547 did their best to get them over the hump on several occasions in the second half, but a 20-5 run by the Aggies after halftime was simply too much for the Vols to overcome. And, unfortunately for Tennessee, there is no rest on the horizon for the weary. After a short turnaround, Tennessee travels to Arkansas on Tuesday night to face the Razorbacks before welcoming Auburn and Bruce Pearl to Thompson Boling Arena next Saturday for a noon tip.

Donnie Tyndall – not one to make excuses – had this to say when asked about his team’s lack of energy during the game.

“We gave them Wednesday off and Thursday we did very, very little on the floor but walk through,” Tyndall said. “Yesterday we went about an hour and ten minutes. They should have been really fresh. I just think the deeper you get into league play. The more, for lack of a better term, your works are exposed. Coaches take away your strengths. They try to make you play to your weaknesses or deficiencies that you have. Just like how we try to do.”

Officiating: I’m not going to say that officiating lost Tennessee the game today, but there were certainly some questionable calls and no-calls that went against the Vols at critical junctures of the game. Daniel Lewis highlighted some of them from the staff’s Vine account, so I’ve embedded them for you to see and decide for yourself. The SEC has never been the poster child for excellent basketball officiating, but this season appears to be bringing out some of the worst officiating in recent memory across the league.

Below, Josh Richardson’s shot was waved off after the ref said the foul occurred on the floor.

Below, this was a no-call by the officials after Kevin Punter catches an elbow to the face.

And the ever-diplomatic Tyndall’s response when asked about officiating:

Final Stats: *Note: The final score was 67-61 in favor of the Aggies, not the 67-64 displayed on the stat sheet below.*

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