Tennessee entered Friday night’s contest against Florida State undefeated.
They left the arena with a loss. An ugly on, at that.
The No. 17 Vols fell to 5-1 with a 60-57 defeat at the hands of Florida State (6-1) in the first round of the Emerald Coast Classic on Friday night. Tennessee will now face the loser of the Purdue-VCU game later on Friday night.
Tennessee played one of their worst games in quite some time, and they quite literally threw the game away. The Vols combined as a team to commit 21 turnovers, 13 of which came from Lamonte Turner and Josiah-Jordan James, the Vols’ two primary ball handlers. The Vols were also unable to hit shots, making just 33.3 percent of their field goals and only five of their 22 three-pointers.
Despite all that, Tennessee managed to hang around and keep nipping at Florida State’s heels.
Florida State roared to a 14-2 lead to start the game and later grabbed a 13-point lead, 46-33, with 10:42 to go in the second half. Yet somehow, Tennessee managed to make the end of the game interesting, pulling to within three points with 1:03 left in the game. That point margin wound up being the final margin of the game as well.
Yet every time the Vols had a chance to go an extended run or give Florida State a real scare, they would turn the ball over or fail to get a stop on defense. The Seminoles never trailed and often looked more athletic.
Somehow, Tennessee made this a closer game than it should’ve been. But they couldn’t find a way to pull out an improbable victory.
Here are our three biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s first loss of the season.
Not Senior Night
Tennessee’s two senior guards had their worst games of the young 2019-20 season on Friday night.
Lamonte Turner ended up with 20 points, but it was an extremely inefficient 20 points. The senior was a turnover machine against the Seminoles, coughing up the ball eight times compared to dishing out just two assists. And a lot of Turner’s giveaways weren’t because of good defense by Florida State; no, several of the senior point guard’s turnovers happened because he just made exceptionally poor decisions. Couple that together with a horrid shooting night (4-of-14 overall), and Turner had one of his worst nights as a Vol in his career. If not for a good night of shooting free throws (11-of-14), Turner would’ve likely finished with single digit points, too.
UT’s other senior guard, Jordan Bowden, didn’t have a much better game.
Bowden didn’t make a shot until the closing minute of the first half when he nailed a three. He didn’t get much going in the second half either, finishing with just 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting and only 2-of-7 from three.
The Vols’ senior duo combined to score 31 points on an abysmal 7-of-24 shooting. Turner had eight turnovers and Bowden had two.
Turner deserves credit, though. Even though he played so poorly as a point guard, he was driving to the bucket time and time again late in the game and was not giving up. He kept Tennessee in it with his free throw shooting, attempting 14 of UT’s 29 shots from the charity stripe.
Frozen from the Floor
There was only one person on Tennessee’s roster who could make a shot against Florida State, and that was Yves Pons. The junior wing was 4-of-8 from the floor and totaled 11 points and 10 rebounds along with three blocks.
Everyone else? It was a night to forget.
Tennessee as a team shot a putrid 31.6 percent from the floor, and if you take out Pons’ shooting, no other player who shot more than three field goal attempts had better than a 33.3 percent shooting percentage on the night.
Aside from Pons, the rest of Tennessee’s team shot a combined 29.4 percent from the floor. Pons had two of UT’s five made three-pointers as a team.
The poor shooting was an extension of Tennessee’s poor passing. Tennessee as a team combined for 21 turnovers, their most in a game since committing 24 turnovers in a win against West Virginia on January 26th of last season. A lot of those turnovers were a byproduct of just making really bad decisions and not using their awareness to read FSU’s defense.
Tennessee came into Friday’s game as one of the top assisting teams in the country. The Vols finished with just five total assists against the Seminoles, their lowest since a win against Georgia Tech over a year ago.
No Post Presence
Teams with length and height are going to be an issue this season for the Vols. Tennessee was able to scheme up Washington earlier this season despite the Huskies having two young and talented post players. On Friday, UT couldn’t get anything going down in the post.
Florida State outscored the Vols 26-14 in the paint, and Tennessee was out-rebounded 19-14 in the second half after winning the rebounding battle in the first half.
Pons was decent in the paint, but he scored in other areas, mostly. John Fulkerson was tossed around and abused on Friday night, finishing with just two points and two rebounds in 29 minutes. Fulkerson also fought through some foul trouble, fouling out in the final minutes.
Tennessee was terrorized down low, and Florida State had two seven-footers and enough length in other areas to really bother the Vols defensively. All that led to UT’s worst performance of the season.