Simple Mistakes Cost Tennessee At LSU

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    National Championship Alabama Vs. Georgia Player Props

    Tennessee trailed by 20 points with 14 minutes and change to play in Saturday’s 79-67 loss at No. 21 LSU. And as odd as it sounds, Tennessee had every chance to earn its second road win of the season.

    Basketball is a complicated game, but some times it’s pretty simple. The numbers told the story as the Vols dropped to 1-2 in SEC play.

    Tennessee didn’t take care of the basketball, missed far too many free throws and struggled on the defensive glass.

    Let’s start with the turnovers. Both teams rank in the nation’s top 15 at forcing turnovers and it figured to be a key factor in the game. LSU actually turned it over once more than Tennessee — 16 to 15 — but the Vols turnovers were far more costly, often leading to easy baskets.

    “Some of our turnovers were just easy baskets for them,” Barnes said. “Just uncontested layups. We throw it in bounds, get it stolen, throw the ball over someone’s head at half court for uncontested layups. … I can think of four of those and there’s no defense for that. That’s not be strong, not be tough with the ball. … You should not be making those plays at this time of the year.”

    The dagger came with a minute and a half left. Inbounding under the LSU basket with one second on the shot clock, Kennedy Chandler forced a poor pass to Olivier Nkamhoua in the middle of the court. It turned into an LSU fast break and the subsequent score gave the Tigers a seven-point lead and put the Vols away.

    LSU ended with 23 points off turnovers to Tennessee’s 13.

    Despite the turnovers and massive second half deficit, Tennessee had chances to get back in the game. The killers came at the free throw line. Tennessee made just 23-of-37 free throw attempts and had costly misses — especially during its second half comeback.

    With Tennessee down 11 with over six minutes left, Uros Plavsic missed the front end of the bonus — the third time the Vols did so on the evening. Three possessions later with Tennessee trailing by nine, Kennedy Chandler made just one of three free throw attempts.

    Tennessee shot more free throws Saturday then it had in a game all season, but the Vols failed to capitalize.

    “If you’d have told me we’d get to the free throw line 37 times and miss two (actually three) one-and-ones, I’d have told you we were going to win by 10,” Barnes said. “We didn’t make those shots.”

    Then there was Tennessee’s failures on the defensive end. For the first 30 minutes of the game, this was not the Tennessee defense that we’ve seen all season.

    LSU coach Will Wade said his offense looked as good as it has in some time postgame. The easy transition baskets were a reason for that, but the Vols’ defense had more breakdowns then it had in any game this season.

    The Tigers also dominated the offensive glass, totaling 18 second chance points. In the 20-7 run LSU used to open up its lead at the start of the second half, the Tigers grabbed four offensive rebounds. Tennessee didn’t get a single defensive rebound, only getting stops via turnover.

    That’s what is truly inexcusable about Tennessee’s performance at LSU. The Vols are a bad team when they don’t play with their usual defensive intensity. In a game they had to be dialed in on defensive to win, Tennessee simply wasn’t.

    “If guys would just bring energy. The older guys just bring big time energy, like that, we’ll be fine. I promise you,” Barnes said.

    If Tennessee could have moderately improved in any of those areas, they would have had every chance to earn a marquee road win. Instead, the Vols have some soul searching to do if they don’t want to repeat last season’s falters.

    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.