As the No. 1 team in the country, the Vols should be used to getting every team’s best shot. They’ve survived each and every attempt thus far, and that includes their victory over Texas A&M on Saturday night.
Tennessee (20-1, 8-0 SEC) started out blazing hot against the Aggies (8-12, 1-7 SEC) on Saturday night in College Station, making seven of their first eight shots and going on to make 12 of their first 14 field goals to grab a 28-9 lead with eight minutes gone in the game. It looked like the Vols might be able to run wire-to-wire without any issues in this game.
Then, they let the Aggies get back into it.
The Vols’ perimeter defense struggled once again after playing better against South Carolina, and Texas A&M’s three-point shooting and overall offense helped them close the gap to four points with 4:44 to go in the first half. Tennessee would find some space again, but they held just a seven point lead at halftime after leading by as much as 19 in the first half.
The Aggies didn’t let up to start the second half, either. Both teams exchanged buckets time and time again, and Texas A&M cut Tennessee’s lead down to just two points twice. The first time came after a Brandon Mahan three made the score 60-58, then TJ Starks made a layup to make the score 65-63.
Tennessee would push their lead back to seven, and they would keep the Aggies at arm’s length for the next few minutes. Then, Rick Barnes put in his “closing lineup,” and that’s when the Vols went into high gear.
The Vols had a 78-72 lead with 7:42 to go in the game. That’s when Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden, Lamonte Turner, and Grant Williams took over the game.
No. 1 Tennessee would go on to outscore the Aggies 15-6 in the final seven and a half minutes, and that’s how they closed out on a 17-point victory on the road.
Grant Williams scored 20-plus points for the fifth time in the last seven games, and he also brought down 10 rebounds, giving him his fifth double-double of the season. Jordan Bone also had a double-double, but more on him in a minute. Lamonte Turner had 19 points and seven assists, and Jordan Bowden played effectively in his return from a minor injury earlier this week, totaling 16 points and four assists.
Here are our five biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s 93-76 win over Texas A&M.
Surviving a Shootout
The Vols’ offense proved once again why it’s the best in the SEC. But the defense lacked for a lot of the night, and that kept Texas A&M in the game.
Tennessee shot 64.5 percent overall and made nine of their 20 three-pointers. But Texas A&M kept pace because of their hot shooting from three and because of the Vols’ inability to switch off screens effectively and cause disruptions.
The Aggies shot 43.9 percent overall, including 44.4 percent from three. Tennessee only forced 10 Aggie turnovers, though they did score 18 points off those 10 turnovers. The Vols also allowed the Aggies to get too many easy rebounds, especially on the offensive glass. Texas A&M out-rebounded Tennessee offensively, pulling down 13 offensive boards compared to Tennessee’s six.
Surprisingly, Tennessee didn’t draw many fouls and didn’t get to the free throw line often, which is a staple of their offense. The Vols attempted just four free throws (all by Grant Williams) and made all four. Texas A&M was just 6-of-12 from the charity stripe.
The Vols have a potent enough offense to survive most shootout scenarios, but their defense is going to have to step up when the competition ramps up here in a few weeks.
Jordan Bone’s Perfect Night
Junior point guard Jordan Bone had as perfect of a night as he could’ve asked for.
Bone finished the game a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor, including 4-of-4 from three. He totaled 18 points and had 10 assists, marking his third double-double of the season. He also contributed five rebounds and only had two turnovers.
The Nashville native has been ridiculously effective in SEC play, and that was exemplified perfectly on Saturday night against Texas A&M. He’s now averaging 13.1 points and seven assists in conference play this season. He has just 11 turnovers in eight SEC games this year.
Welcome Back, Bowden
Redshirt junior guard Jordan Bowden missed Tennessee’s game against South Carolina on Tuesday night after tweaking his knee during shootaround before the game. But he was back on the court for Saturday night’s game against Texas A&M, and he looked like his old self.
Bowden was efficient on offense, scoring a cool 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He was just 2-of-7 from three, but he dished out four assists and didn’t turn the ball over a single time in 31 minutes of play.
In SEC play, Bowden is averaging 16.1 points off the bench. As a bench player this season, he’s averaging 12.4 points per game compared to just 6.8 points a game he was averaging as a starter.
Perimeter Defense Lags
Tennessee’s perimeter defense continues to be an issue that Rick Barnes isn’t very happy about.
Texas A&M came into Tuesday’s game with the worst three-point shooting percentage in SEC play among the 14 conference teams. The Aggies were making just 26.2 percent of their threes in their previous seven SEC games.
But on Saturday night, they came alive from three.
The Aggies made 12 of their 27 three-pointers against the Vols, which was easily a season-high for Texas A&M. Their previous season-high was nine makes from three against Florida, Valparaiso, and Texas Southern.
Saturday’s game marked the seventh time in the last eight games the Vols have given up at least eight three-pointers to an opponent, and it’s the fifth time in the last seven games an opponent has made 10 or more threes against UT. Opponents are shooting 39.1 percent from three against the Vols over their last eight games.
Vols Set Another Record
With the win, Tennessee set another school record this season.
The Vols’ victory over Texas A&M marked their 16th-straight win on the season, breaking the old school record of 15-straight wins from 1915 through 1917. The Vols last lost against Kansas in overtime back in November. That’s also Tennessee’s only loss of the season to this point.
Tennessee’s 8-0 start in SEC play is their best start to conference play since the 1981-82 season, and their 20-1 record is the best beginning to a season since the Vols joined the SEC prior to the 1932-33 season.