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Tennessee Basketball One Of Nation’s Best At Creating ‘Kill Shot’ Runs

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball is elite at using runs to dominate opponents and secure wins. Doing so at one of the highest rates in the country as allowed the Vols to get off to a 16-3 (6-1 SEC) start to the season and climb to No. 4 in the AP Poll.

A “kill shot” is a term coined by college basketball analytics reporter Evan Miyakawa. A “kill shot” is a run of 10-0 or better in a game and teams who go on more of them than their opponent in a specific game win said game 81% of the time.

Tennessee is not only one of the best teams in the country at creating “kill shots” but they’re also one of the best at avoiding them.

After adding a “kill shot” in its win over LSU Saturday, Tennessee is up to 20 kills shots on the season tied for the third most in the country. Houston has gone on 23 “kill shots” this season while Rutgers has 22 and Youngstown State is tied with Tennessee at 20.

Why is Tennessee so good at going on scoring runs?

The biggest reason Tennessee is so good at going on runs is its defense. The Vols rank first in EvanMiya’s Defensive Bayesian Performance Rating and first in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency. Rick Barnes’ eighth Tennessee team can go on longer, extended runs because its defense can hold teams scoreless for extended periods of time.

“When we’re looking to make the pass, opposed to catching the ball and (being) predetermined,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. “But when we move the ball, we get our spacing, we’re going to end up with some good shots. Then you couple that with the fact that we can get some deflections, which in the first half tonight we had 19 deflections, you hope some of those lead to easy baskets in transition. It’s a combination of a couple different things that get you going on those runs. Plus if you can get some stops in there, that’s what really can break it loose for you.”

Tennessee also scores more points from the three-point line than the national average which allows them to stack points in a short time frame.

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Not only is Tennessee basketball elite at going on large scoring runs, they’re elite at stopping opponents from going on runs of their own.

The Vols have only given up three “kill shots” this season, two in the first half of their loss against Kentucky and one in the second half against Maryland, a game Tennessee won after a poor second half nearly erased a 21-point first half lead.

Why is Tennessee so good at keeping teams from going on runs against them?

“We take great pride. We actually, I think, we call it a sack— holding a team scoreless for three straight possessions so we’re definitely counting those things and it just makes up a great part of who we are as a team,” freshman Tobe Awaka said.

The defensive success already discussed certainly is an extremely large reason. However, this Tennessee team has been effective at avoiding scoring droughts.

The Vols struggled with scoring droughts a season ago and still have offensive inconsistencies this season, but the scoring droughts have shrunk. Of the top 50 teams in the Baynesian Performance Rating, Tennessee is tied for 15th in going on four-plus minute scoring droughts.

Tennessee has had just six scoring droughts of four-plus minutes this season with its longest scoring drought on the season being just over six minutes. Combine the defensive success with the improvement in avoiding scoring droughts and you have a team that doesn’t often give up large runs.

The Vols are looking to continue their success a creating “kill shots” and limiting their opponents “kill shots” Wednesday when they host Georgia to Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip-off between the Vols and Bulldogs is at 7 p.m. ET. Dave Neal and Jon Sundvold are on the call for the SEC Network.

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