Tennessee began their first NCAA Tournament game since 2014 by missing their first six shots of the game. But their defense kept Wright State from getting out to a big lead, and once the Vols found their rhythm on offense, they never looked back.
The Vols trailed 2-0 then 4-3 early in the game, but once they took a 5-4 lead with 15:55 left in the first half, they never looked back.
No. 3 seed Tennessee dominated No. 14 seed Wright State in the Round of 64 on Thursday afternoon, winning by a score of 73-47. The Raiders’ 47 points were the fewest Tennessee had ever allowed in the NCAA Tournament in 41 total tournament games.
The Vols were rolling on defense, and their offense was productive enough to help them cruise to victory.
With the win, the Vols advance to the Round of 32 and will face the winner of No. 6 seed Miami vs. No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago.
Here are our three biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s impressive win.
Asserting Their Strength
Tennessee used their strength and girth to manhandle Wright State in this game. Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams were glass cleaners, and John Fulkerson even piled up the rebound numbers for the Vols.
The Vols out-rebounded Wright State 44 to 32, dominated inside, and bullied the Raiders on both offense and defense. Tennessee finished the game with six blocks and six steals.
Although Tennessee may not be the biggest team in college basketball, they’re one of the most physical teams. And they used that to their advantage on Thursday.
Complete Team Effort
Thursday’s game wasn’t the most efficient offensive effort from the Vols this season, but they got production when it mattered most and rode a smothering defense to victory.
Three Vols scored in double figures, and Tennessee nearly had three players end up with double-doubles. Admiral Schofield did get a double-double, totaling 15 points and 12 rebounds. Lamonte Turner led the team with 19 points and he added nine assists as well, and Grant Williams scored 14 points and had nine boards.
John Fulkerson logged some very productive minutes for Tennessee in the win as well. In 15 minutes, he totaled two points, seven rebounds, an assist, and a block.
Tennessee had 17 turnovers and only shot 27.8 percent from three. But they made 45 percent of their shots overall, were 14-of-16 from the free throw line, and forced 17 Raider turnovers as well. They held Wright State to just 31.7 percent from the field.
Even when Tennessee’s offense isn’t firing on all cylinders, their defense is good enough to keep them in games. And on Thursday, it was good enough to help the Vols dominate.
First One Was a Breeze
Tennessee set a record on Thursday by holding Wright State to just 47 points. That was the lowest point total the Vols had ever held an opponent to in their 41 NCAA Tournament games. Their 26-point victory was the second-largest margin of victory in 20 wins in the tournament as well.
Thursday’s contest will go down as one of the most lopsided victories for Tennessee in their NCAA Tournament history. But they can’t let that lull them into a false sense of security. Their second round match-up will likely be much tougher, and Rick Barnes won’t let them rest on their laurels.