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Vols’ Offense Flashes Potential In Season Opening Win

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball broke its program record for three-pointers made in a game Tuesday night, making 17-of-40 attempts in the Vols’ 90-62 win over UT-Martin.

The Vols shot just 19 threes a game season ago. Tennessee’s exhibition win over Lenoir-Rhyne was not a fluke. This Tennessee offense is going to shoot a lot of threes and they’re going to be exciting to watch. 

“I think it’s just fun to play with these players,” Santiago Vescovi said. “We have a lot of shooters this year. A lot of people that can pass the ball and drag two people and just hit the open man. … We have confidence in every single teammate that we have so I think everybody can shoot it. I think it’s really fun.”

More important than the number of three-pointers taken, is the fact that Tennessee made 42.5% of its three-point attempts.

It’s just one game and unlikely that they can shoot it that well all season but that percentage would have led the nation a season ago.

Vescovi — last season’s best shooter — and newcomers Kennedy Chandler and Justin Powell were fantastic from deep, combining to shoot 13-of-20.

Vescovi made a game high six triples, Powell made three-of-five attempts and Chandler was a perfect four-of-four from deep.

In the Vols’ exhibition game and season opener, Chandler is a combined eight-for-nine from deep. Again, that’s an unrealistic mark to shoot at throughout a season, but if he can be a good to great three-point shooter, Chandler will hear his name called early in June’s NBA Draft.

“I just been working on it honestly,” Chandler said. “People are starting to realize or I don’t know if they’ve realized yet but I’ve just been working on it since it’s a skill I need to work on. It’s something I’ve improved on it every single day.”

Then there were Tennessee’s big men showing they could shoot it from deep too. Olivier Nkamhoua made one-of-three attempts from three-point range and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield made his lone attempt.

There’s going to be some level of learning curve for this offense. That’s only natural for a veteran coach who is changing his philosophy and for a team that could attempt double the amount of triples this season.

“I don’t think our guys quite have a feel because it’s a fine line,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said on what makes a three-point shot a good one. “If we’re open, in rhythm with the shots that we practice, we’re going to take them. … If we get offensive rebounds, unless we have a clean putback, we are definitely looking to spray it for a three. We really are.”

There were some issues for Tennessee’s offense. The Vols made just 10-of-23 layup and dunk attempts with a handful of them coming in transition.

John Fulkerson’s return to the lineup should help improve that rate, but the Vols have to be a lot better on that front moving forward — especially given the opponent. 

“We do have to do a little bit better job finishing some of those drives to the basket that we had,” Barnes said. 

Tennessee has plenty to work on as they begin preparing for Sunday’s matchup with ETSU. However, the Vols’ offense showed its potential and its electric style of play in Tuesday’s win.

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