5 Observations: No. 13 Memphis 51, No. 19 Vols 47

    by -

    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    The most anticipated non-conference game of Tennessee’s 2019-20 season certainly delivered in trash talking and in atmosphere. But the scoreboard didn’t look the way Vol fans hoped it would at the end of the game.

    No. 13 Memphis came into Knoxville and handed No. 19 Tennessee a 51-47 loss in front of a sold out Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers improved to 9-1 on the year while UT fell to 7-2.

    The Tigers wee led by the trio of DJ Jeffries, Tyler Harris, and Damion Baugh, who scored 11, 11, and 10 points, respectively. Precious Achiuwa totaled eight points and 13 rebounds as well.

    Defensively, the Vols played well, forcing 17 Tiger turnovers and holding Memphis to just 33.9 percent shooting as a team. But offensively, the Vols played the worst they have in the Rick Barnes era.

    Tennessee shot just 25 percent as a team, and their 47 points are the fewest in a game since scoring 38 in a 56-38 loss to Alabama on January 10, 2015 in Donnie Tyndall’s one year as head coach.

    Freshman Josiah-Jordan James scored a career-high 14 points and was 3-of-6 from three, adding five rebounds. But only one other Vol made a three-pointer outside of James, and that was Jordan Bowden. Otherwise, no other Tennessee player made a single three.

    Here are our five biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s ugly loss.

    Where Were the Seniors?

    Tennessee’s two senior guards were almost nowhere to be found on Saturday for most of the contest.

    Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden combined to score 10 points on 3-of-21 shooting. Both guards attempted a combined 11 three-pointers, and Bowden was the only one who made a shot from distance, connecting on one.

    Turner’s first made field goal of the game didn’t come until under the three-minute mark of the second half.

    Turner only dished out three assists and had three turnovers. He did grab five rebounds, but his overall plus/minus was a -4. Bowden wasn’t much better, grabbing just one rebound and totaling two assists. He had a plus/minus of one.

    Tennessee is supposed to be able to rely on their two veteran guards for leadership and offense. On Saturday, the offense was absent, and the leadership wasn’t what it needed to be, either.

    Putrid Shooting

    The Vols just could not hit a shot from distance against Memphis. They struggled to hit any field goals period, but UT was especially awful from three.

    Tennessee combined to go 4-of-26 from three against the Tigers. The Vols don’t have a reliable post presence without someone like Uros Plavsic being able to play, and John Fulkerson isn’t the most potent offensive scoring threat down low. Yves Pons couldn’t get anything going in the paint, either. Because of that, Tennessee needs to have reliable scoring from the perimeter. That didn’t happen on Saturday.

    But it wasn’t like Tennessee was rattled by Memphis’ defense on the perimeter, though.

    The Vols just missed shots. They had wide open looks, good looks, and minimally-contested looks time and time again on Saturday. Yet those shots all failed to go in.

    All in all, Tennessee finished 15-of-60 from the floor, shooting an abysmal 25 percent as a team.

    Memphis Overcomes the Tempo

    Tennessee did what they could to slow things down and make Memphis play out of their comfort zone. But to the Tigers’ credit, they were able to overcome that.

    The Tigers play at one of the fastest tempos in college basketball, averaging over 60 field goal attempts a game and 27 free throw attempts a contest, giving them nearly 88 opportunities to score per game.

    On Saturday, Memphis attempted 56 field goals and only 13 free throws, giving them just 69 scoring opportunities.

    Memphis didn’t shoot great either, and Tennessee’s defense played well enough to win. The Tigers also missed open shots, but the Vols did a great job of turning them over, forcing 17 giveaways and holding the Tigers to 33.9 percent shooting as a team.

    But rebounding and a lack of second chance opportunities on offense for UT spelled doom, and the Tigers adjusted just enough to come away with a win.

    Couldn’t Take Advantage 

    Memphis was down two of their better players, but they still managed to go on the road in an extremely hostile environment and get the win.

    The Tigers played without former No. 1 overall prospect James Wiseman and talented guard Lester Quinones on Saturday. And while their offense surely suffered with those two out, Memphis still managed to overcome that adversity.

    Tennessee, meanwhile, couldn’t take advantage of that opportunity.

    The Vols were still outscored in the paint 28-20 and got dominated on the boards, getting out-rebounded 49-39. John Fulkerson had seven rebounds, but no other Vol totaled more than five. Memphis, on the other hand, got 13 rebounds from Precious Achiuwa and seven from Alex Lomax.

    Winning Streak Over

    The longest home winning streak in the country has come to an end.

    Tennessee entered Saturday’s contest having won 31-straight games in Thompson-Boling Arena, which was the longest active home winning streak in Division I basketball. But the Tigers put that to an end.

    The Vols fall to 7-5 against Memphis in Knoxville, and the win is the Tigers’ second-straight win in Thompson-Boling Arena. Memphis beat Tennessee 85-80 in Knoxville back on January 1, 2013.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.