Tennessee played one of its worst games of the season on Wednesday evening on a snowy night in Knoxville that kept much of the crowd away. Here are five quick observations from the 88-74 loss to Vandy:
1. Ice cold from 3-point range: The ground outside Thompson-Boling Arena wasn’t the only thing that was freezing cold Wednesday night. Tennessee was able to get a road win over the weekend by relying on the 3-ball. That was their only chance on Wednesday night and it was a complete disaster on that front against the Commodores. It took the Vols approximately 30 minutes of game time to hit their first 3-pointer and they only shot 20% from 3-point range because of some late buckets made once the game was out of reach. Kevin Punter was 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, but outside of that, the team was 1 of 15.
2. Perimeter defense struggles: Credit Vanderbilt for hitting its shots. The Commodores were 13 of 39 from 3-point territory, shooting much closer to the percentage (39) that the Vols were looking for coming into the game. But Tennessee made life pretty easy for the Commodores, leaving their shooters wide open on numerous occasions – a mental lapse that had Rick Barnes frustrated after the game. “It looked like we still had too many guys thinking offense, offense, offense,” Barnes said. “We keep talking about taking it to another level defensively, and we really went backwards with that today.”
3. Size issues: Tennessee has found ways to work around its lack of size for much of the season. But facing the biggest team in the league, a squad that features two 7-footers in the starting lineup, the Vols ran into a buzzsaw. The Commodores used their size to win in rebounding, blocked shots and in denying Tennessee from getting to the rim with any consistency. “I do [think size influenced the game], and again, I thought we go in there and we want to drive them,” Barnes said. “We took some bad shots around the rim. We got timid, and we weren’t looking for our shots, but we didn’t run our offense, either. We would drive, but you have to drive and kick them. We thought we could drive them, but look to make the right play. We just didn’t look to make the right play out of them.”
4. Moore back; Mostella struggles: One silver lining for the Vols was the return of senior forward Armani Moore (ankle), who missed the previous game against Mississippi State. Moore gave the Vols a nice boost with 14 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes. Moore’s return sent guard Detrick Mostella back to the bench, and he wasn’t nearly as effective coming from there. After scoring a career-high 24 in Starkville, Mostella hit just 2 of 13 from the field on Wednesday night on his way to a very inefficient eight-point night. “I’m not surprised with Detrick,” Barnes said. “I told coach today that it would surprise me that because he had a big game, like most young players even though he’s played a little bit – Admiral (Schofield) went through it – thinking it was going to be easy every night and he doesn’t stay locked in the way he needs to.”
5. Disappointing performance overall: There’s no shame in losing to this Vanderbilt team that has a ton of talent and had a huge size advantage. But the Vols, arguably, had their worst performance of the year, showing little energy or fight when they got down. “This reminds me of the Nebraska game,” Barnes said. “We didn’t put up a fight in that game. I didn’t think we put up a fight tonight when we got down.”
It doesn’t get much easier from here. The Vols host 17-1 South Carolina on Saturday before going on the road for two games and then returning to Knoxville for a matchup with Kentucky.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) January 21, 2016