Wins won’t always look pretty in college basketball, and good teams use a variety of ways to win throughout the season. On Monday, Tennessee couldn’t buy a basket for large stretches of time, but they leaned on their defense and came away with another win.
The No. 17 Vols improved to 5-0 on the season with a 58-46 victory over in-state foe Chattanooga (3-3). Tennessee’s 58 points were the fewest since they beat Vanderbilt by an identical score, 58-46, in Knoxville on February 19th last season.
The last time these two teams met, the two programs were in completely different situations. The Vols were opening up the 2016-17 season in Year Two of the Rick Barnes era, and Chattanooga was fresh off an NCAA Tournament appearance the previous season. The Mocs won that game 82-69 and wound up going 19-12 that season. Tennessee, meanwhile, went 16-16.
Now, Tennessee is coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, and Chattanooga finished 12-20 last season. And the Vols handled the Mocs despite going cold from the floor offensively.
Tennessee was led by Lamonte Turner’s 17 points and 12 assists. John Fulkerson scored 14 points, and Jordan Bowden totaled 13 points and 12 rebounds. Yves Pons had an off-night shooting (as did most of the team), only totaling five points on 1-of-5 shooting. But the junior wing grabbed four rebounds, totaled two assists, and blocked three shots in 31 minutes. He had the best plus/minus on the team as well, finishing with a plus-14.
The win for the Vols marked their 30th-straight victory in Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee hasn’t lost at home since a 94-84 loss to Auburn back on January 2, 2018.
Here are our five biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s ugly win over Chattanooga.
Tennessee’s offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders against Chattanooga. Against a better team, the Vols might’ve lost. But luckily for UT, Chattanooga is just an above-average mid-major squad this season.
The Vols only put up 58 points, easily their lowest output of the season so far. Tennessee shot an abysmal 29.2 percent from the floor in the second half and only made one of their seven three-pointers. For the game, Tennessee connected on just five of their 18 threes and made 37.3 percent of their field goals.
Tennessee’s poor shooting wasn’t limited to their field goal attempts, though.
UT struggled mightily from the free throw line on Monday, too. Tennessee was just 15-of-23 from the charity stripe. Luckily, the Vols dominated the foul game, as Chattanooga only attempted four free throws all night.
Tennessee did dish out 17 assists on their 19 made field goals, and they snagged 13 offensive rebounds compared to the Mocs’ six. But all in all, it was one of the uglier offensive games the Vols have played in quite some time.
While the offense didn’t turn heads, Tennessee’s defense, once again, came to play.
The Vols held Chattanooga to just 46 points and 33.9 percent shooting on the evening. The Mocs were out-rebounded 43 to 30, and Tennessee was able to keep every single Chattanooga player under double-digits in points. The Mocs’ leading scorer, David Jean-Baptiste, managed only nine points on 4-of-17 shooting.
Tennessee’s defense has now held back-to-back opponents under 50 points, and the Vols have yet to allow more than 63 points to an opposing offense this season.
Coming into Monday’s game, Vanderbilt grad transfer Matt Ryan was one of Chattanooga’s best players. On Monday, he was almost a non-factor.
Ryan came into Chattanooga’s match-up with the Vols averaging 15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists on the season. But against Tennessee, Ryan only played 27 minutes because of foul trouble.
Tennessee kept Ryan frustrated, and he had several emotional outbursts as he picked up foul after foul. Ryan ended up fouling out of the game before the four-minute mark of the second half. He finished the game with nine points and two assists on just 4-of-12 shooting, including only 1-of-7 from three.
Getting Ryan in foul trouble was a big reason the Vols came away with the victory against the Mocs.
Tennessee’s senior duo in the backcourt like to be in-sync, and that didn’t change on Monday night.
The last time the Vols took the court, both Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in their Tennessee careers. On Monday, both Bowden and Turner notched their first double-doubles of their UT careers in the same night.
After Bowden scored 11 first half points, he ended up getting stymied in the second half, but he contributed in other ways. The senior wing finished with 13 points and scooped up 12 rebounds, setting a new career-high in rebounds and cementing his first double-double as a Vol.
Turner, meanwhile, was an assist machine once again
The redshirt senior point guard totaled a team-high 17 points and dished out 12 assists, marking the second time this season he’s gone over double-digit assists. Just like Bowden, Turner had never had a double-double of any kind before Monday’s game.
Now, both senior guards have a double-double in their Tennessee careers.
Fulky Smashes the 2nd Half
It was a tale of two halves for John Fulkerson against Chattanooga.
Fulkerson didn’t attempt a single field goal in the first half and finished the opening half of play with zero points, four rebounds, and two turnovers in 13 minutes. But the second half was dominated by Tennessee’s big man.
The redshirt junior post player scored a team-high 14 points in the second half, and he was a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor and made six of his nine free throws. Though he didn’t bring down any rebounds in the second half, Fulkerson’s 14 points were pivotal in UT’s ability to keep Chattanooga at bay and come away with a victory.