Tennessee (1-2) opened up the Maui Invitational with a tough loss to No. 16 Wisconsin (3-1), falling short by 74-62.
The Vols trailed early, but battled back and even took the lead in the second half against a 2015-16 Final Four team. Here’s five observations from Tennessee’s defeat to the Badgers:
Vols and Badgers Trade Buckets, UT Ultimately Can’t Keep Up
Tennessee went toe-to-toe with a senior laden Wisconsin team, but came up short late in the game.
The Badgers were streaky from the field, but caught fire late to salt away its lead, making eight of its last ten shots.
Shembari Phillips (5-for-9) and Robert Hubbs (6-for-11) shot the ball well, but couldn’t keep up with the veteran Badgers. Once Wisconsin switched to a zone defense after the under-eight timeout, Tennessee didn’t have an answer.
Detrick Mostella had 12 points for Tennessee in the first half, but was held scoreless after halftime. Mostella played 24 minutes off the bench, shooting 4-of-13 from the field.
A Slow Start and a Fast Start
Wisconsin started off the game by making its first seven shots, while Tennessee began by making just one of its first ten shots. The Vols trailed by 17 at one point in the first half.
Despite the early lead, Wisconsin turned the ball over nine times in the first half, allowing Tennessee to stay in the game.
The Vols took advantage and battled back. Tennessee trimmed the Badger advantage to eight by halftime. The start of the second half was a completely different story from the beginning of the game. Tennessee outscored Wisconsin 10-0 in the first four minutes of the half, forcing two more Badger turnovers before the first media timeout to take its first lead of the game.
Zone Defense Solves Early Season Defensive Problems
Rick Barnes has not held back about his team’s poor defensive efforts in the first two games. But when Tennessee switched to a zone defense early in the first half, the Vols looked like a different team.
Wisconsin turned the ball over 18 times, compared to Tennessee’s 10 giveaways. The Vols scored 15 points off the Badger turnovers,
Tennessee hasn’t been good guarding the ball this year, but the zone defense helped. The perimeter defense kept Wisconsin out of the lane, and forced the Badgers to take a lot of 3s, where they shot 7-of-19. Wisconsin lived and died by the 3, and towards the end of the game the Badgers made their shots when they needed to.
Wisconsin pulled away late, but Tennessee easily put together its best defensive performance of the young season.
Phillips and Hubbs Lead the Way
Detrick Mostella was on his game early, leading Tennessee offensively from the outset. But it didn’t last for very long. Mostella scored Tennessee’s first five points in an abysmal opening display, but couldn’t hit shots in the second half.
Shembari Phillips and Robert Hubbs took over for Mostella, attacking the zone defense and getting to the rim. Admiral Schofield was the beneficiary of Tennessee’s dribble-penetration offense. The sophomore forward scored seven points, consistently hitting mid-range shots.
Phillips’ main contribution came from 3, where he was 3-for-4. The rest of the team was 3-for-15 from long distance.
Tough Night for Tennessee’s Newcomers
Lamonte Turner started at point guard for Tennessee with Jordan Bone nursing a sore foot. Turner finished with just five points on 2-of-8 shooting to go along with two assists.
Grant Williams played well, scoring six points off the bench, but the rest of Rick Barnes’ freshman class struggled for most of the game. Jordan Bowden had two points in nine minutes, despite starting the game.
Redshirt senior Lew Evans is still yet to score in his Tennessee career. The Utah State transfer played just three minutes on Monday.
Tennessee returns to action on Tuesday at 1:30 ET in the Maui Invitational against the loser of Georgetown/No. 13 Oregon.