5 Observations From UT’s 75-63 Loss at TCU

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    Barnes-5

    It was another disappointing performance for Tennessee in a 75-63 loss at TCU as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday afternoon. Here are five quick thoughts:

    1. Another meltdown: Simply put: Tennessee blew it again. The Vols lost a 14-point lead and were outscored by 26 points in the second half. This has been a troubling trend for the Vols under Rick Barnes this year and it didn’t take a break with the Vols playing out of conference on Saturday. Since Jan. 2, the Vols have had a lead in eight of their nine games at the half, yet have only won three games in that span. Tennessee, which hit just two of its final 16 shots of the game and gave up way too many easy buckets late, isn’t competing for 40 minutes and that’s something that has to keep Barnes up at night right now.

     2. Live by the 3, die by the 3: This has been another common theme for the Vols. The second-most prolific 3-point shooting team in the SEC can compete with about anybody when shots are falling from beyond the arc, but it can be downright ugly when they’re not. Saturday’s performance was Exhibit A for that. The Vols shot 8 of 16 (50%) in the first half in Fort Worth on their way to a 14-point lead. They put up a goose egg in the second half – missing all 15 3-pointers. No lead will be safe for the Vols if they shoot like that for any portion of the game.

    3. Bright spots: It can be tough to find bright spots in a game like that, but one thing Tennessee has to be excited about is the continued maturation of freshman forward Kyle Alexander. Barnes is trusting him more and more and he put up several career highs on Saturday, including minutes (31), rebounds (11) and blocks (6). Kevin Punter did his share, scoring 24 points in 39 minutes. The Vols are squeezing all they can out of their senior guard. Before fouling out in the closing minutes, Armani Moore stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a monster block:

    4. Changes coming? Barnes doesn’t have a ton of options, but after consecutive meltdowns, there might be some overhaul coming before the Vols take on Kentucky on Tuesday. Junior Robert Hubbs III was all but absent in his 21 minutes on the floor – scoring just two points on seven field-goal attempts with zero rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. No other wing players really stepped up in Fort Worth on Saturday, but pretty much everybody outside of Punter will have to be evaluated going forward after this last stretch.

    5. Big-picture takeaways: It’s okay to be upset at Tennessee’s effort in the last two games. There’s no doubt that Barnes is. The Vols, a team that, at the very least, competed for 40 minutes in most other games this year, haven’t done that in the past week. It’s also understandable to be upset at where Barnes has this team right now. Yes, there have been a few pleasant surprises, but this team, especially away from Thompson-Boling Arena, has had some unacceptable performances this year.

    That reflects on everybody – coaches and players. I think it’s wise to reserve big-picture judgement though. This team has several well-documented flaws that can’t be fixed this season. It’s fine to be both – upset at the present product, yet optimistic about what will come – simultaneously.

    Final stats: