Tennessee lost to Texas A&M 63-58 on Tuesday night inside of Thompson-Boling Arena.
Jordan Bowden hit a three with 1:24 remaining to tie the game at 53-all. On the next possession for the Aggies, Wendell Mitchell hit a fadeaway three as the shot clock expired to give the Aggies a 56-53 lead. The shot sparked a 10-4 run to finish the game.
Texas A&M (10-9, 4-3 SEC) led 25-24 at the half, but the Aggies had to call a timeout just 1:01 into the second half after an Yves Pons three. Pons’ three came after Santiago Vescovi was fouled on a 3-point shot to give Tennessee a 30-25 lead.
That served as the beginning of a back-and-forth start to the second half. After Tennessee’s 8-0 run, the Aggies went on a 7-2 run to cut the Vols’ lead to 34-32 with 15:35 remaining.
Midway through the second half, Tennessee went nearly six minutes without scoring. Texas A&M took a 40-39 lead as a result. Bowden responded with a slam and then an and-one off of a beautiful assist from Santiago Vescovi to give the Vols a 44-40 lead with 7:42 remaining.
Texas A&M went on to outscore the Vols 23-14 the rest of the way to pick up the win.
“I thought we got off to a good start and then we had a couple of turnovers that turned the momentum early in the game, and then we even came back out and took the lead,” Rick Barnes said following the game. “Simple things, but mostly offensive rebounding that we couldn’t come up with to finish the defensive possession.”
Here are the biggest observations from Tennessee’s (12-8, 4-3 SEC) second consecutive loss.
The Rebounding Battle
Tennessee can look at one stat and one stat only as to why it lost to Texas A&M on Tuesday night. The Aggies out-rebounded the Vols 46-21, and UT gave up 23 offensive rebounds. A&M scored 16 second chance points and had more offensive boards than the Vols had total rebounds.
“It’s pretty simple, when you give up 23 offensive rebounds and you only get three yourself, I’m not sure you deserve to win the game and that’s what I told our guys,” Barnes said. “But the fact is, we guarded the way we needed to, we just didn’t rebound.
“It’s disappointing in a lot of different areas, but the fact is, at the end, when we needed to come up with some rebounds, we weren’t able to.”
Texas A&M had only been averaging 10.0 offensive rebounds per game this season, fourth-fewest in the SEC. Overall, the Aggies were the third-worst rebounding team in the conference entering the game.
“I was surprised by the fact that we didn’t rebound the way we needed to,” Barnes said. “You go back and look, our post guys should’ve gotten the ball more, our guards, when they had a little pressure, instead of continuing to work, and when we continued to work, we got the ball where we wanted.”
Tennessee had been winning the rebounding margin by 2.9 rebounds per game this season. The 23 offensive rebounds are the most the Vols have given up this season. The previous high was against South Carolina on Jan. 11, when the Gamecocks pulled down 18 offensive boards.
Tennessee shot 47 percent from the field, and Texas A&M shot 30 percent. If you only knew those two statistics from the game and didn’t know the final score, one would assume the Vols won convincingly.
But Tennessee didn’t win, and it was because of poor shot selection.
John Fulkerson and Yves Pons combined to shoot 11-for-17 from the field. They were the only two post players to take a shot. The rest of UT’s team were 10-for-28, which points to poor shot selection.
“I can’t explain it now,” Barnes said. “I really can’t. That’s all we’ve talked about for the last couple of games. That’s what they (opponents) hope. They hope you shoot it and you shoot it often.
“I really can’t explain it, because as much as we’ve talked about it, we felt like our guys understood that.”
Tennessee shot 52 percent from two and 31 percent from three. The Vols also outscored the Aggies 30-18 in the paint.
Turnovers did Tennessee no favors, either. Though the Vols only turned it over 13 times, they allowed the Aggies to score 23 points off those turnovers. Josiah-Jordan James turned it over a team-high four times, and Jordan Bowden turned it over three times.
Zero Bench Production
Tennessee might as well have not have had a bench tonight. The Vols’ bench scored just three points, which came on a Jalen Johnson three.
Johnson, Olivier Nkamhoua, and Uros Plavsic were the only players to come off the bench against the Aggies. Johnson was the only bench player to take a shot, finishing 1-for-2 for the game. The trio combined to play 33 minutes, 22 of which came from Johnson. Nkamhoua played 11 minutes, blocking three shots, grabbing two rebounds and committing two fouls. Plavsic played two minutes and picked up one foul.
Davonte Gaines and Drew Pember did not play.
Tennessee now hits the road for a two-game road trip in conference play.
The Vols travel to Starkville on Saturday to take on Mississippi State (12-7, 3-3 SEC) at 1 p.m. ET before traveling to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. tip with Alabama (12-7, 4-2 SEC).
Tennessee will then return home next Saturday for a date with No. 13 Kentucky (15-4, 5-1 SEC).