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Three Quick Takeaways: Tennessee Earns Dominant Victory Over Vanderbilt

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Australian shepherds did a multitude of cool tricks during halftime of the Tennessee-Vanderbilt basketball game at Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center on Saturday night.

Their skills were so impressive that’s it’s easy to imagine they would have been more effective playing basketball than the Commodores were.

Tennessee massacred its instate rival building a 31-point halftime lead and coasting to a 88-53 victory to complete the series sweep. Here’s three quick takeaways on the win.

Tennessee Takes Control Early

Vanderbilt gave the Vols a scare through 25 minutes three weeks ago in Nashville. Dalton Knecht opened the scoring with a triple 28 seconds into Saturday night’s matchup and it was a route from that moment on.

Tennessee came out red-hot from the field, making its first five shots, eight of its first 10 shots and 10 of its first 12 shots. The Vols led by 10 points, then 18 points and finally 31 points at halftime as Tennessee embarrassed its instate rival in the first half.

The Vols’ off ball movement was fantastic and they got offensive contributions from nearly everyone in the first half. Six Tennessee players totaled at least six points in the first half while the Vols shot 53% from the field and 37% from three-point range.

As good as Tennessee’s offense was, Vanderbilt’s offense was even more putrid. It took the Commodores nearly 14 minutes to reach double figures and if it weren’t for a pair of three pointers in the last two minutes, Vanderbilt wouldn’t have totaled 20 points in the game’s first 20 minutes.

The Commodores shot poorly (32% from the field and 23% from three-point range) but their biggest issue was the rapid rate that they turned the ball over. Vanderbilt turned it over on 37% of its possessions for a total of 13 in the first half. But what stood out most was just how careless the turnovers the turnovers were with three of them coming when a Commodore player stepped out of bounds.

With all of that, Tennessee opened up a 51-20 halftime lead. It marked the Vols’ second biggest in a SEC game in the last 75 years.

More From RT: See What Seed Tennessee Is In NCAA Bracket Preview 

Vols’ Veterans Get Shots To Go

Tennessee’s super seniors Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi have been much more quiet on the offensive end this season. A major reason is that the Vols are much less dependent on the duo thanks to the development of Jonas Aidoo and the addition of Dalton Knecht.

But still, Vescovi is having his worst seasons shooting from the perimeter and James went through a prolonged slump for the first seven SEC games.

Both veterans had big games shooting the basketball in the lopsided win. Each hit triples before the game’s first stoppage and it set the tone for the game as a whole and both of their performances.

Vescovi scored 12 points on four-of-five shooting from the perimeter. It was a good sign for the sharpshooter who has struggled, at least by his standards, from the perimeter. The shooting guard’s four triples were the most he’s made in a conference game this season and the most he’s made since he hit five against Kansas in the Maui Invitational.

James totaled 13 points and like Vescovi was incredibly efficient shooting the ball. The super senior made five-of-seven shots from the field and three-of-five shots from three-point range. James also added seven rebounds.

An Abundance Of Minutes For The Freshmen

Tennessee won its two games this week by a total of 64 points. On top of it being good because the Vols played well and took care of two inferior opponents, it was a good sign because of the heavy minutes that a number of key Vols have had to play in recent weeks.

None of Tennessee’s players had to play significant minutes against the Commodores. In fact, it might have been the least amount of minutes that the Vols’ key players have played all season. Zakai Zeigler played 24 minutes, Dalton Knecht played 22 minutes, Vescovi played 21 minutes, Aidoo played 20 minutes and James played 19 minutes.

Those lack of minutes led to an increase in minutes for the Vols’ freshmen with all three, excluding JP Estrella who was out with an injury, playing at least 10 minutes.

All three of Cam Carr, Freddie Dilione and Cade Phillips did things to like for Tennessee but Carr was the most effective. The shooting guard played with extreme confidence and made things happen on both ends of the court.

Carr made two three-pointer but perhaps his best play was when he grabbed a steal in the backcourt and fed Aidoo for a dunk. Dilione totaled two points on a transition dunk while Phillips scored two points and grabbed three rebounds while dishing out two assists.

Final Stats

Up Next

Tennessee basketball heads back on the road Tuesday night where they’ll face a Missouri Tigers team that is currently winless in SEC play. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

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