Tuesday night, Tennessee played host to Texas A&M as both teams got conference play back underway following the Big 12-SEC challenge. The visiting Aggies defeated the Vols by a score of 63-58.
Santiago Vescovi, Jordan Bowden, Josiah-Jordan James, Yves Pons and John Fulkerson got the start for Tennessee, as they have every game since Vescovi arrived at the beginning of the semester. Jalen Johnson also played major minutes for the home team.
Texas A&M physically dominated the rebounding battle in this game 46-21.
“We shoot a very low field goal percentage” Aggies head coach Buzz Williams said. “And so, we have to give ourselves the best chance we can on the offensive glass. Just so we can gain extra possessions. I thought we were much more active, on the offensive glass, and I thought we did a really good job of prevent them from getting extra possessions, which is one of our Achillies’ heels …”
In the first half, the Vols were the better team, even though they ended the half down one because they couldn’t get the shot to fall on the offensive end. Pons opened the scoring for both teams with a three-pointer. Tennessee got out to an early 14-6 lead in the first nine minutes of the game. Texas A&M responded with a two-minute, 8-0 run to tie the game at 14-14.
The Vols then countered with a 6-0 run of their own, four points of which came on fast breaks by James and Vescovi. The Aggies quickly answered with a 9-1 run, during which, Tennessee’s only points came from a Bowden free throw. The Vols regained the lead for a brief moment when Johnson knocked down a three with a little under two minutes left in the half, but two late free throws gave Texas A&M the halftime lead.
Tennessee was once again on top when Vescovi converted all three of his free throw attempts when he was fouled outside the arc only 15 seconds into the second half. The Vols continued the good momentum, with Pons sinking a three pointer and Fulkerson knocking down his jumper. The Aggies would respond, going on a 7-2 run to bring the game within two points. Fulkerson responded with five straight points, but Texas A&M then scored eight straight points, taking the lead in the process.
Bowden kickstarted a rejuvenation of the energy inside the arena when he slammed down a massive dunk around the nine-minute to go mark. On the ensuing Aggies possession, Tennessee had a block and forced a turnover, which they parleyed into a Bowden three-point play on the other end. After a series of free throws for both teams and five consecutive points by Texas A&M’s Andre Gordan, the Aggies led by the slightest of margins.
With 1:24 remaining, Bowden sunk a three to tie the game at 53 and brought Thompson-Boling to its feet. Texas A&M’s Wendall Mitchell answered and nailed a three and on the ensuing Vols possession, an offensive foul was called on John Fulkerson. Then, Wendall connected on both free throws, and Tennessee resorted to fouling, which was unsuccessful.
After the game Vols head coach Rick Barnes was quite frank about what plagued his team.
“It’s pretty simple.” Barnes said “When you give up 23 offensive rebounds and only get three yourself, there’s really – I’m not sure you really deserve to win the game and that’s what I told our guys.”
The Vols are next in action this coming Saturday, Feb. 1 at Mississippi State. The next home game for Tennessee will be next Saturday, Feb. 8 against Kentucky.