Three Quick Takeaways: Tennessee Survives Scare From Undermanned Ole Miss

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    NCAAM Recap: LSU Comes Out On Top Vs. Kentucky

    Tennessee played as poorly as possible on the offensive end for 35 minutes Wednesday night, but strong defense and crucial triples late pushed the Vols past Ole Miss, 66-60.

    Here’s three quick takeaways.

    Horrific Offensive Start

    Tennessee and Ole Miss were tied at zero at the under 16 timeout. That simple sentence explains the absurdity and awfulness that was Tennessee’s first half offense Wednesday night against the Rebels.

    The Vols would go much further than four minutes into the game without scoring, with John Fulkerson making the first basket at the 12:24 mark.

    Tennessee scored just seven points in the game’s first 13 minutes and didn’t find any sort of offensive success or rhythm until the final 6:32 of the half.

    Tennessee scored 12 points in that final 6:32. Even then, the Vols’ offense was far from a juggernaut, but found a way to get some easy baskets around the rim.

    The horrific offensive showing allowed the 17.5-point underdog Rebels to build a first half lead that got as high as 12-points. Tennessee’s offense eventually showing life and a long stretch of bad offense from Ole Miss allowed the Vols to stay within two-points of the Rebels at halftime.

    Still, these are the offensive starts and stretches we’ve seen from this team multiple times this season. While Tennessee’s defense is elite and can keep them in games playing poor offensively, there aren’t many teams that the Vols can recover from that horrific of an offensive start.

    Lack Of Transition Success, Pitiful Shooting Kills Vols’ Offense

    While the start of the game was the worst stretch of offense in the evening for Tennessee, it remained pitiful throughout the game.

    For the second straight year, Ole Miss’ zone defenses have given the Vols absolute fits. In last season’s loss in Oxford and this season’s win in Knoxville, Tennessee has had no real answers for the defense.

    Ole Miss did the two most important things when it comes to shooting down Tennessee’s offense: they didn’t let the Vols get into transition and they didn’t let Kennedy Chandler get going.

    Despite turning it over 27 times, Ole Miss didn’t let Tennessee get into transition often. The Vols missed some easy looks on the fast break in the first half, but you have to credit the Rebels of making Tennessee’s half court offense beat them.

    Tennessee scored just 12 points in transition.

    Then Chandler, who missed last week’s SEC opener with COVID-19, struggled. The freshman played just seven minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls and was held scoreless.

    Chandler totaled just six points inn the game while dishing out seven assists and tallying five turnovers. The point guard was not effective and as has often been the case this season, the rest of the Vols couldn’t pick up the slack.

    Without both transition baskets and Chandler’s struggles the Vols’ offense became reliant on the three-pointer. As has often been the case this season, Tennessee shot poorly from beyond the arc. The Vols made just 10-of-34 triples but made four in the final three minutes of regulation and overtime..

    Vescovi Makes It Happen Down The Stretch

    Like most everyone, the first half was not a good one for Santiago Vescovi on the offensive end.

    The junior guard delivered for Tennessee down the stretch and made crucial play after crucial play to will the Vols to the come from behind win.

    Let’s start with 3:40 left in regulation. The Vols were down by seven points and seemed near dead. Vescovi brought life back into Thompson-Boling Arena for the first time in some time, making an and-one three and finishing the four-point play out of the media timeout.

    Then with Tennessee trailing by three with just over a minute to play, the Uruguay native tied the game with a three-pointer on the right elbow.

    In overtime, Vescovi made perhaps the play of the game, jumping an Ole Miss pass and making a pull up three-pointer to give the Vols a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

    He made sure of it, making two free throws to ice the game in the final seconds.

    The junior guard led Tennessee with 17 points while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out five assists.

    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.