NCAAM National Championship Preview: Expect Madness In March
NASHVILLE, Tn — Tennessee earned its first road SEC win of the season, using an 8-0 run in the game’s final 1:20 to beat Vanderbilt, 68-60.
The win is Tennessee’s ninth straight over Vanderbilt and sixth straight in Memorial Gymnasium.
Hello Justin Powell
Auburn transfer Justin Powell was supposed to give Tennessee instant scoring and three-point shooting when he arrived on campus this summer. In preseason practice, Powell looked like that guy.
After a hot start to the season against lesser opponents, Powell’s production took a huge dip and the sophomore spent more time on the bench.
The Kentucky native started to show some signs of life, knocking down a pair of triples against the Wildcats but elevated his offensive play to another level Tuesday in Nashville.
With Tennessee’s offense struggling — as it often does — in the first half, Powell provided all eight of his points including two-of-four shooting from three-point range.
The shooting guard showed the shooting confidence Tennessee needed him to show and knocked down open shots and made the defense respect him from deep. That led to some driving opportunities, free throws and an assist.
Powell’s role was significantly larger in part due to Josiah Jordan James exiting the game with an injury in the first half. Still, Powell played 29 minutes compared to Victor Bailey Jr’s two minutes.
The 6-foot-6 guard didn’t suddenly look like Tennessee’s best player but did look like the player we though could provide an offensive spark. The Vols need that spark badly.
Vols Limit Pippen Jr.
Vanderbilt’s offense isn’t a one man show, but it’s a whole lot easier to slow down when you cut off the head of the snake — preseason SEC Player of the Year Scotty Pippen Jr.
The Vols did just that, holding Pippen to 18 points on three made baskets. Pippen was able to add 18 points in large part due to success at the free throw line, but the Vols completely limited him in the half court.
The Vols’ rotated defenders on the 6-foot-3 guard. Santiago Vescovi got the first go at him while Kennedy Chandler and Zakai Zeigler also took turns facing the star guard.
Pippen is a score first point guard, but still a point guard. Tennessee didn’t allow him to get his teammates going as the junior tallied just two assists and four turnovers.
The talent guard appeared frustrated a couple of times, picking up frustration reach in fouls a handful of times.
With Pippen limited, Vanderbilt’s offense struggled. Only guard Jordan Wright had a strong offensive game for the Commodores. Only three Vanderbilt players scored in double figures and no one else scored more than seven points
Plavsic Turns In Strong Performance In First Start
Rick Barnes mixed things up, inserting Uros Plavsic into the starting lineup tonight over super senior John Fulkerson.
The move paid dividends as Plavsic turned in a strong outing, recording 13 points and seven rebounds.
Now, Plavsic is limited in what he can do, so I’m grading him on a bit of a curb. Still, the Serbia native gave the Vols all they needed and more and was the best member of Tennessee’s front court.
The junior finished easy baskets around the rim, made his lone free throw attempt, was solid on defense and on the boards.
After an 8-0 Vanderbilt run tied the game with 1:20, Plavsic made his biggest contribution. The center grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it back in, giving Tennessee a lead it would never relinquish.
He was playing better than John Fulkerson going into the game and certainly played better against the Commodores. Fulkerson scored just two points and grabbed six rebounds while battling through foul trouble.
Plavsic isn’t an SEC starting big man, but he has made tremendous strides from last season to this season. Without his growth, Tennessee’s front court issues would be even more glaring.