Dreadful Shooting Drowns Vols In New York

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    Juwan Howard on starting Big Ten Play

    Tennessee turned in one of the worst shooting performances in recent program history as the Vols fell to Texas Tech, 57-52, in overtime at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.

    The Vols offense struggled to get to open looks at the basket for most of the evening thanks to Texas Tech’s athleticism and length. All five of the Red Raiders’ starters are between 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8, allowing them to switch every screen and all five players to be able to protect the paint.

    Unable to get open looks at the basket, subsequently the Vols took an abundance of threes. Very few went in. Tennessee made six-of-40 attempts with two coming in the first half, two coming in the second half and two coming in overtime. The two made triples in overtime came with the Vols trailing by six or more with under 40 seconds left in the game.

    “We got a lot of good looks,” Josiah Jordan James said. “I feel like the first half started really slow for us, but in the second half we got everything we could have asked for as far as looks. It just wasn’t our day. Six-of-40 from three, just wasn’t shooting the ball well, but definitely took the shots we should have taken.”

    Oddly, Tennessee wasn’t settling for a lot of bad threes. Sure, there were a few cases of poor shot selection, but the Vols still shot extremely poorly on open threes.

    Rick Barnes said he told his team to keep shooting open shots and the Vols kept getting open looks. That ended with Tennessee having the second worst three-point shooting percentage of any team that’s attempted 40 or more threes in the last 10 years.

    “We had some looks tonight we just couldn’t get them to go down,” Barnes said. “We encouraged guys to keep taking their shots, but both teams had chances to really stretch things out but it became a possession game and we couldn’t do enough on the offensive end.”

    Beyond the three-point shooting, Tennessee’s offense struggled again at the free throw line, making just eight-of-16 attempts, and the Vols missed a handful of gimmes at the basket.

    Luckily for Tennessee, Texas Tech wasn’t much better on the offensive end. That led to one of the worst 10 minutes of offensive basketball imaginable.

    From the 13 minute mark in the second half to the 1:55 mark, Tennessee scored just five points and made only one field goal. Somehow, Texas Tech couldn’t expand its lead, scoring just five points and making two field goals in the stretch.

    Tennessee deserves credit for how it played on the defensive end. The Vols forced 15 turnovers — while only turning it over nine times — blocked eight shots and held the Red Raiders to .750 points per possession.

    “The positive is I don’t know if we can be any worse on offense and we were in the game. We stayed in it,” Barnes said. “When you’re not making shots, some teams let up on the other end. I don’t think we did that.”

    “I think our players grit,” Barnes said made the defensive successful. “They thought they were going to post up the little guards … they didn’t take advantage of us, for the most part.”

    If Santiago Vescovi had made the wide open three-point try he had on the right elbow in the game’s final five seconds, this game would be remembered as an awful offensive performance that the Vols were able to win with incredible defense.

    Instead, Texas Tech made three of its first four shots in overtime and scored on four straight possessions to open a lead that made most of overtime uncompetitive. That slightly soured what was a phenomenal defensive performance for the Vols.

    Still, this game was about Tennessee’s offense, or its lack thereof. Its just one game against a good defensive team, but Tennessee’s new look offense is rearing its ugly head pretty often in the first month of the season.

    The Vols don’t have any reliable front court scorers and when opponents have the length and rim protection to contain Kennedy Chandler, Tennessee has become three-point reliant. This isn’t a good enough shooting team to be three-point reliant.

    Tennessee earned a win on its two-game, power five road trip. However, the Vols provided more questions than answers about themselves, and Tuesday’s loss will live in infamy like Cuonzo Martin’s Vols’ 38-37 loss to Georgetown in 2012.

    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.