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Freddie Dilione Did What Tennessee Coaches ‘Wanted To See’ Against Georgia Southern

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee’s home stretch of non conference play is providing opportunities for the Vols’ freshman class to play more minutes and make their case for larger roles ahead of SEC play.

After a daunting nine-game stretch to open the season, the Vols play three small schools and a mediocre North Carolina State squad in the final tune up before SEC play.

Freddie Dilione started the stretch off strong in eight minutes of action against Georgia Southern on Tuesday night.

“I thought Freddie was good,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Freddie did the things tonight we wanted to see. He competed, thought he was locked in. I thought his mindset was terrific. I think it shifted from thinking he’s got to make something happen on the offensive end to making it get going on the defensive end.”

In opportunities early in the season, the talented combo guard looked like he was forcing the issue on the offensive end.

Against Georgia Southern, Dilione let the game come to him. He made both field goal attempts including a transition layup and a corner three. Zakai Zeigler assisted on both baskets.

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Dilione also played with the defensive energy and intensity that he’s often lacked early in his Tennessee career. A game after Barnes criticized Dilione and other freshmen’s preparation, Barnes was happy with how the redshirt combo guard approached the Georgia Southern game.

“I thought, for the most part, those guys really tried to do that,” Barnes said of the freshman class as a whole. “They locked in. And it’s not just in practice. It’s in the film room. It’s everything that we talked about, whatever it may be. We want to see them execute at a high level and, again, tonight I said they probably did better than the older guys.”

Dilione is an extremely talented offensive player and the Vols bringing him along could be a x-factor for this team down the stretch of the season. But earning that trust and confidence is going to be difficult once the grind of a SEC schedule begins.

A partial tear in his plantar fascia which sidelined him for four games and the better part of another stunted the North Carolina native’s early season development.

Dilione is short on time to prove his worth to this Tennessee team, but his performance against Georgia Southern was a step in the right direction.

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