Thompson-Boling Arena has been unkind to Ole Miss in the past, and that trend continued on Tuesday night.
The Vols started out red hot on offense, and that fast start was more than enough to carry them to victory. Tennessee (12-6, 4-2 SEC) beat Ole Miss (9-9, 0-5) by 25 points, securing a 73-48 win in Knoxville. The Rebels have now lost three-straight games in Thompson-Boling Arena and fall to just 2-15 in Knoxville since 1992.
Tennessee’s offense was just as impressive as their defense against Ole Miss. The Vols shot 49 percent as a team and put up the most points they’ve scored against an SEC opponent all season. UT also held Ole Miss to under 50 points, marking back-to-back games that Tennessee has held a team to less than 50 points. It’s the fifth time this season the Vols have done so.
The Vols had four different players score in double figures, and UT totaled 18 assists as a team on 24 made buckets. The defense blocked five shots and totaled six steals, and they held Ole Miss to just 30.2 percent shooting and only 20 percent shooting from three.
Tennessee jumped out to a quick 21-9 lead in the first 10 and a half minutes of the game, and they never looked back from there. The Vols led 42-23 at halftime, and they didn’t let Ole Miss come back in the second half, extending their lead as the game progressed.
Here are our five biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s dominating victory over the Rebels.
The Incredible Fulk
Tuesday night was John Fulkerson’s night to shine.
The redshirt junior forward played the best half of his UT career in the first half of Tennessee’s win over Ole Miss. Fulkerson scored 16 points and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor in the opening half of play. The Rebels would slow him down more in the second half, but not before he could set a new career-high.
Fulkerson finished the evening with 18 points, the most he’s ever scored in a game as a Vol. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and recorded a double-double, the third of his career and the second this season. He finished 7-of-8 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the free throw line.
The Rebels had little post presence on the evening, especially with Khadim Sy getting in foul trouble and only playing 12 minutes before fouling out. Tennessee took advantage, as Fulkerson scored a career-high and freshman forward Olivier Nkmahoua finished with 10 points and four rebounds himself.
Taking Down Tyree
Coming into Tuesday’s game, Breein Tyree was averaging nearly 30 points per game in SEC play and was averaging 18.9 points a game on the season. Against Tennessee, Tyree had a brutal start and never really could recover.
The senior guard finished the game with 18 points after scoring 14 points in the second half, but Tyree was extremely inefficient in his shooting. He finished the game just 7-of-22 and only 3-of-9 from three. Tyree also turned the ball over three times.
Before taking on the Vols, Tyree dropped 36 points against LSU over the weekend. Against Tennessee, Tyree had his lowest scoring output since before conference play began.
Against Georgia, the Vols failed to slow down the Bulldogs’ star guard and the SEC’s leading active scorer, Anthony Edwards. That cost them, as Edwards scored 20 points in the first half and helped UGA blow out UT in Athens. On Tuesday, Tennessee was able to limit the SEC’s active second-leading scorer in the first half, and his efforts in the second half were too little too late.
Block ‘Em All
Yves Pons is on the cusp of a Tennessee school record.
On Tuesday, Pons continued his streak of blocked shots, extending that streak to 18 games with three blocks against Ole Miss. The junior forward has blocked at least one shot in every game Tennessee has played this season.
Pons’ 18-game streak ties CJ Black’s school record for most consecutive games with a block, and Pons is also on pace to break Black’s season record for blocks and blocks per game in a season. Black’s 1997-98 season saw him block 73 shots and average 2.52 blocks a game. Pons currently has 48 blocks in 18 games and is averaging 2.67 per game.
Couldn’t Take Advantage
Ole Miss had plenty of opportunities to grab momentum or cut into Tennessee’s lead, but they rarely made the most of those chances.
The Rebels dominated the Vols on the boards, especially on the offensive end. Ole Miss ripped down 14 offensive rebounds compared to just four by UT, but the Rebels managed to score only six second-chance points off those 14 offensive boards. Tennessee, meanwhile, scored five second-chance points off four offensive rebounds.
Tennessee did a much better job of not turning the ball over on Tuesday, something they’ve struggled with all season. But Ole Miss was incapable of scoring whenever UT did give the ball away. The Rebels scored just four points off eight UT turnovers, while the Vols scored 15 points off 10 Ole Miss turnovers.
Tuesday’s victory is a special one for Rick Barnes.
With the Vols’ win over Ole Miss, Barnes now has 100 victories as Tennessee’s head coach. The win improved his overall record as UT’s leader to 100-56.
The Vols were just 31-35 in Barnes’ first two seasons as head coach. Since then, UT has gone 69-21, won a share of the regular season SEC title in 2018, made it to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, and made it to the Sweet Sixteen in 2019.