Three Quick Takeaways: Tennessee Hands No. 6 Arizona First Loss

    by -

    NCAAM Preview: Arizona Vs. Tennessee

    In front of a raucous crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena, No. 19 Tennessee handed No. 6 Arizona its first loss of the season, 77-73.

    Here are three quick takeaways.

    Unbelievable Start For Tennessee

    In the first big game with no capacity limits at Thompson-Boling Arena since Mar. 7, 2020, Tennessee gave its fans plenty to cheer about early.

    Tennessee jumped out to a 9-0 lead and Arizona didn’t score until the 16:13 mark in the first half. First year head coach Tommy Lloyd tried to make it to the under 16 timeout without blowing his first timeout. However, the Vols kept pouring it on and after their lead ballooned to 16-2 at the 14:52 mark, Lloyd was finally forced to quiet the hornets nest.

    And that’s what it Thompson-Boling Arena was for the first eight minutes of this game and for a handful of the rest of it. Tennessee’s crowd was unfathomably loud and the Wildcats seemed extremely rattled.

    Arizona turned it over nine times in the first seven and a half minutes of the game. The Vols did a fantastic job of turning great defense into offense, getting easy looks. That proved critical against an Arizona half court defense that proved incredibly stingy.

    During that same time, Tennessee grabbed five offensive rebounds to Arizona’s one. The combination of turnovers and rebounds allowed the Vols to start as fast as they did.

    Vols Flip Game In Final Minute Of First Half

    Despite Tennessee’s breathtaking start, its close to the first half was every bit as important. The Vols’ offense went cold midway through the first half as Tennessee made just one field goal in an 11:10 stretch.

    Tennessee survived most of that with stout defense, but Arizona found some cracks and put together a 10-0 run. Kerr Kriisa had a wide open three-point attempt from the corner that would have cut Tennessee’s lead to two.

    The triple didn’t fall and the Vols had a game changing final minute of the half.

    John Fulkerson ended the long scoring drought with an old fashion three-point play. The next possession, Santiago Vescovi made his first triple of the game.

    With life back in Thompson-Boling Arena, Arizona decided not to take the final shot of the half despite the shot clock being turned off. Pelle Larsson missed a tough layup and Kennedy Chandler took the ball coast-to-coast to cap off an 8-0 run and give the Vols a 13-point halftime advantage.

    That finish proved incredibly necessary as the sixth-ranked Wildcats just kept coming in the second half.

    Fulkerson Delivers Big

    Tennessee didn’t get a strong performance from Kennedy Chandler (eight points) and they didn’t shoot well from three-point range (29%). Offensively, the Vols had to piece it together and Joh Fulkerson helped them do that in a big way.

    The super senior played by far his best game of the season and his best game since the 2019-20 season. Fulkerson made life miserable for Arizona center Christian Koloko, forcing him to foul out with 3:25 remaining in the game.

    All the things Fulkerson did exceptionally as a redshirt-junior was on display. Good touch around the basket, make tough fades over the defense and drawing fouls.

    The Kingsport, Tennessee native seemed to deliver every time the Vols needed a basket including scoring seven straight points for Tennessee at one point in the final three minutes.

    Fulkerson ended the game with 24 points on eight-of-13 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds.

    Needless to say, that Fulkerson would completely change the potential of this Tennessee team.

    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.