You can’t expect to lose both the rebound and turnover battles in the SEC and win on the road.
And despite a solid shooting performance, Texas A&M couldn’t overcome its carelessness to finally secure an SEC win. No. 24 Tennessee pulled away late to knock off the Aggies by a final score of 75-62.
The Aggies (11-6, 0-5) couldn’t overcome an abysmal first half offensively, thanks to some great defensive pressure from the Vols (12-4, 3-2). That allowed Tennessee to build an eight point lead at halftime and remain in control for the remainder of the game.
Here are our three biggest observations from Tennessee’s third straight victory in SEC play:
New Rotation Shows Serious Growth
Tennessee changed up its rotation a bit on Saturday night. Jalen Johnson, who had only played one minute all season, got some early minutes in the first half. In fact, he had eight minutes at the break.
Johnson didn’t attempt a shot, but he did finish with a rebound and two assists.
Senior point guard James Daniel III also played a big part in the Vols’ win over the Aggies. Jordan Bone played well in his normal starting role, but Daniel logged some important minutes for Rick Barnes’ team.
If he can continue to be 1b at point guard for Tennessee, it’ll help Bone continue to grow and develop.
John Fulkerson played a major role in the Vols’ win over Kentucky last Saturday. But he wasn’t as active in the first half against the Aggies. He had only played two minutes in the first half.
In the first four minutes of the second half, Fulkerson had four points, however.
All of that said — Tennessee has depth. And their ability to rely on the bench to play a major role shows that it’s not all on Grant Williams to carry the team this season. Williams only had four points on 2-of-7 shooting at halftime and it didn’t matter. Tennessee still led by eight at the break.
Rick Barnes has multiple guys who can beat you. Players like Kyle Alexander, who stepped up in the final minute. He finished with a career-high 14 points.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) January 14, 2018
That’s a luxury that Barnes hasn’t had in his time in Knoxville.
Schofield Stays Hot
Admiral Schofield had 22 points earlier this week against Vanderbilt, and that tied his career-high. And he picked up right where he left off against the Aggies.
The junior forward had the second-most minutes for Tennessee, logging 31 minutes on the floor. He finished with 12 points, knocking down just 4-of-12 shots from the field after a hot start.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) January 13, 2018
His production was a byproduct of good point guard play. The Vols moved the ball well inside-out along the perimeter, which was crucial in order to avoid All-SEC forward Tyler Davis down low.
Jordan Bone finished with four assists. James Daniel had three, and Jalen Johnson even had a pair of assists as well.
On the defensive end, Schofield was able to stay out of foul trouble. He also grabbed eight rebounds, and that led the team.
Defense Comes up Big Again
Texas A&M shot lights out from three in the first half, hitting 5-of-8 from behind the three-point arc. But despite their hot night from deep, the Vols’ defense still had an exceptional night.
A&M committed four turnovers in the first two minutes of the game, and then they had five more in a two minute stretch later in the first half. UT scored 15 points off 13 Aggie giveaways in the first half.
Star Aggie forward Tyler Davis couldn’t hurt Tennessee because he didn’t get very many shots. He finished the game with nine points on 4-of-8 shooting. And that wasn’t near enough.
Tennessee scored 22 points off turnovers, compared to A&M’s 12 points off the Vols’ 10 giveaways.