Tennessee (14-12, 6-8 SEC) almost stole one on the road – taking the favored Ole Miss Rebels (19-8, 10-4) down to the final possession before a Josh Richardson jumper just missed and the Vols fell 59-57.
It was a back-and-forth game that featured runs by both teams. The Vols started slow, but found their stride late in the first half and early in the second before a late counter from Ole Miss put the Rebels in position to win it down the stretch.
Here are five observations from another heartbreaking loss for UT:
1. Another close one on the road
The Vols are no strangers to sweating it out in road games this year. Tennessee’s last three road games have been decided by three points or less. And this trip to Ole Miss was no different, with the Vols getting a decent mid-range look from Josh Richardson to potentially tie it at the buzzer – a shot that almost went before rimming in and out. Despite the loss, Tennessee continues to play better overall on the road in conference play with a 3-3 mark away from Thompson-Boling Arena and a 2-5 record at home against SEC foes.
2. Vols heat up after slow shooting start
Tennessee initially appeared to bring its cold second-half performance against Kentucky down to Oxford – scoring just seven points by the 7:38 mark of the first half. Combine that with the 17 points UT scored in the second half against Kentucky, and that was a combined total of 24 points in just over 32 minutes of game time. But the Vols heated up after that, scoring 23 points in the final 7:37 of the first half to take a 30-27 lead into the break. Amazingly, the Vols finished the game with a 43% field-goal percentage and a 39% mark from 3-point range after a horrendous start.
3. Moody steps up again for Ole Miss
Undersized (5-10) Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody had himself quite a week – scoring 29 points (8/12 3-pointers) in a win over rival Mississippi State and then following that up with 22 points (6/11 3-pointers) against the Vols on Saturday night. He hit several crucial 3-pointers against Tennessee. including three in the middle portion of the second half that helped the Rebels turn a 41-33 deficit into a 52-47 advantage in a span of about six minutes.
4. Moore, veterans produce for the Vols
Tennessee was primarily a three-man team when it came to production on Saturday night. Juniors Armani Moore (15 points) and Kevin Punter (12 points) joined senior Josh Richardson (13 points) to combine for 70.1% of Tennessee’s scoring on the night. Moore, who started cold, had a particularly strong night, bouncing back after battling an illness in the days leading up to the game. He stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals.
5. Turnover margin hurts the Vols
While Tennessee shot much better and won the rebounding battle (37-28), you can point to turnover margin as one of the biggest undoings for the Vols. Ole Miss was +7, turning it over just six times itself, while the Vols lost the ball 13 times. Ole miss capitalized with 15 points off the UT turnovers. Tennessee had just five points in the same category.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) February 22, 2015