Three Quick Takeaways: Vols Improve To 4-1

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    Photo via Tennessee Athletics

    Tennessee Tech led Tennessee at halftime of Friday’s game at Thompson-Boling Arena before the Vols turned it on and pulled away in the final 10 minutes of the game to improve to 4-1 with a 80-69 win.

    Here are three quick takeaways.

    Tennessee Tech Leads At Halftime

    A 3 p.m. local time tip-off the day after Thanksgiving was a perfect letdown spot. That’s exactly what happened to Tennessee as Tennessee Tech hung with the Vols for 30-plus minutes Friday afternoon.

    Tennessee was 21.5-point favorites over the 2-3 Ohio Valley Conference foe.

    The Vols led for most of the first half but never by more than seven points and mostly by less than five points.

    It looked like Tennessee was going to create separation before halftime, going on a 5-0 run to take a six-point lead with 2:15 left in the half. From there, Tennessee Tech went on a 7-0 run to end the half including a Jr Clay triple as time expired to take the lead.

    While Clay led the Golden Eagles with 19 points on the game, surprisingly Tennessee Tech’s scoring was very balanced in the first half. Two Tennessee Tech players scored six points and three more score five points.

    The Golden Eagles were able to get to the free throw line, making six-of-nine attempts. Tennessee shot just two free throws in the first half.

    Vols Struggle From Beyond The Arc

    A major reason Tennessee Tech was able to hang in the game for over 30 minutes was Tennessee’s shooting struggles.

    The Vols weren’t shy to shoot the three in the first half and they couldn’t buy a make, hitting two-of-15 triples. Kennedy Chandler and Olivier Nkamhoua accounted for the two makes. Tennessee shot six-of-23 (26%) from three-point range in the game.

    It was the second time in three games that Tennessee struggled shooting from the perimeter. The Vols shot 18% from deep in their lone loss to Villanova.

    Unlike the Villanova game, Tennessee didn’t deal with foul trouble to key players in the win over the Golden Eagles.  Chandler played consistently and that helped Tennessee’s offense not collapse — as did the opponent — but there were still clear offensive issues for the Vols.

    Against undersized Tennessee Tech, the Vols dominated inside. John Fulkerson had his second straight strong performance, scoring a season high 14 points.

    Tennessee scored 24 of its 34 points in the pain in the first half and 48 of its 80 points in the game. The Vols tallied nine offensive rebounds and eight second chance points in the first half, but struggled on the glass in the second half.

    Five Vols In Double Figures

    Tennessee was without two of its eight main rotation players Friday as both Josiah Jordan James and Justin Powell didn’t play.

    James is dealing with torn ligaments in a finger while Powell was out with the flu.

    With the two wings out, a group of Vols stepped up to provide the offensive production.

    Kennedy Chandler wasn’t particularly efficient shooting but still scored 15 points on six-of-13 shooting from the field. It certainly wasn’t Chandler’s best game as he matched four assists with four turnovers. Still, the phenom freshman played through it and gave the Vols solid production.

    Santiago Vescovi followed Chandler’s lead with inefficient shooting, still Vescovi scored 13 points, his fourth game in double figures this season.

    Against the undersized Golden Eagles, Tennessee’s front court had a strong performance.

    Olivier Nkamhoua led the Vols in scoring for the second time this season, totaling 18 points on a perfect eight-of-eight from the field.

    The junior big man and Vescovi were the only Vols that had success from beyond the arc. Nkamhoua made both of his attempts and Vescovi made three.

    The question for Nkamhoua is if he can provide consistent scoring against better competition. The junior didn’t score against Villanova before performing well against North Carolina.

    Brandon Huntley-Hatfield had his best offensive performance of his young career, tallying 12 points on six-of-seven shooting. The freshman scored six points in a 2:18 stretch in the second half as Tennessee opens up the lead.

    We already touched on Fulkerson, but it was a positive sign for Tennessee that the big man provided back-to-back strong, efficient performances.

    Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.