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5 Observations from Tennessee’s Loss to LSU

Armani Moore-1-9Saturday turned into a modern-day SEC hoops version of the Valentine’s Day Massacre in Knoxville with LSU putting together a scary-good performance that quickly put a halt to any momentum the Vols may have gained from their stunning come-from-behind win at Vanderbilt on Saturday.

The Tigers (18-7,7-5 SEC) stormed out of the gates, building a commanding 47-20 halftime lead. Tennessee (14-10, 6-6 SEC) battled in the second half at cut its deficit to as close as 15, but was never able to make it truly competitive after the slow start.

Here are five observations from LSU’s convincing 73-55 win over the Vols:

1. Slow start dooms the Vols

Donnie Tyndall called it the worst first half he’s seen in 10 years. The Vols got crushed by the Tigers early. The only early sign of life was a 5-0 run that cut into LSU’s initial 7-0 start, but it was virtually all LSU after that in the first 20 minutes, building a lead that reached 28 points before heading into the break with a commanding 47-20 edge. “I told them there’s nothing I can say,” Tyndall said of his halftime message after the horrific start. “It was embarrassing. It was absolutely humiliating. As a coach and as players, it should have been the same way. It wasn’t good enough. What I can’t tolerate or won’t tolerate is when things don’t go your way to put your head down and feel sorry for yourself. I thought that’s the first time we’ve done that all year.”

2. Teams continue to bomb away against UT

LSU came in as a relatively poor-shooting 3-point team, checking in at No. 221 nationally in 3-point percentage (32.9%). But as has been the recent trend against Tennessee, the Tigers found their stroke, taking advantage of some holes in the Vols’ zone to hit 9-of-19 (47%) from beyond the arc. “Their big guys, as we’ve talked about before, are NBA players,” Tyndall said. “So if you’re going to shrink the floor and try to pack it in on them a little bit, you’re going to give up a couple of jump shots. They made nine threes, which is like I said three-and-a-half more than they do on a nightly basis. So we had to pick our poison.”

Defending the 3-point line has been a regular issue for the Vols over the past few games. Tennessee’s last four opponents have shot a combined 47.7% from deep during a span that the Vols have lost three of those four.

3. All LSU down low

No huge surprise here. LSU has one of the best front courts in the nation, and it pretty much had its way against an overmatched Tennessee team in the post. LSU, which came into the game as one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, was +8 on the boards against UT. Forward Jordan Mickey was outstanding, piling up 20 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks – finishing just three swats shy of a triple-double. The Tigers finished with nine blocks, but altered several other shots. The Vols got very few clean looks near the basket. This was a huge area of concern and those fears were realized by Tennessee on Saturday.

“We really didn’t get dominated by a post player if I can remember (so far this season), but Mickey certainly dominated the game today,” Tyndall said.

4. Quarterman produces on offense, limits Richardson on defense

LSU wing Tim Quarterman had a great game on both ends of the court. Aided by three 3-pointers, Quarterman scored an efficient 13 points (4/6 shooting total), grabbed six rebounds and dished out six assists. But perhaps even more valuable was the defense he played on Tennessee’s Josh Richardson. The lengthy 6-foot-6 wing kept Richardson front getting into the lane with regularity and kept him in check, as Tennessee’s leading scorer on the season scored a manageable 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

“I thought (Quarterman) played extremely hard,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “He played well tonight. Not only Tim, I thought the team did a good job because when Richardson came off of screens, we had other guys sitting there trying to channel with him and making sure that we didn’t give him the lane or any easy driving opportunities. I thought as a team we did a great job of that.”

5. Looking for some positives

It’s hard to find a ton of positives coming out of what matched the largest margin of defeat all season for the Vols. But Tennessee did play better after the disastrous first half, actually outscoring LSU by nine points in the final 20 minutes. Armani Moore had a nice night, leading the Vols with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting despite playing against such a talented front court. Detrick Mostella, who Tyndall said has surpassed Devon Baulkman in the rotation, also gave the Vols some life from the bench with eight points in just nine minutes. Derek Reese (11 points) was just one point shy of tying his career high.

Other notes:

• Robert Hubbs III briefly left the game in the first half and came back into the game with a wrap on his thumb. Tyndall said trainers feared he broke his non-shooting thumb, but haven’t confirmed anything yet.

• Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones, new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord and former Vol forward Jarnell Stokes were among the 16,051 in attendance on Saturday.

• Tyndall said he thinks Kentucky can beat the Vols by 100 when they play on Tuesday if Tennessee plays as poorly as it did in the first half against LSU.

Final stats:

Best Tennessee Vine of the game:

 

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