Men's Basketball vs Mississippi State

#5, Admiral Schofield, struggles through Mississippi State's defense on Tuesday Feb. 5, 2019 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

No. 8 Tennessee wrapped up its regular season schedule by splitting its final two games against conference foes Mississippi State and Auburn.

Wrapping up its home schedule against the Bulldogs on Senior Night, the Vols promptly took care of business in front of another raucous Thompson-Boling Arena crowd.

With a chance to earn a share of the SEC Regular Season Championship for the second consecutive year right in their grasp, the Vols were unable to hold on down the stretch as the Tigers stormed back for an 84-80 win.

Here’s how Tennessee’s individual groups faired during that span:

Frontcourt

Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield were once again Tennessee’s combined scoring leaders during the past week, but they didn’t receive much help from their frontcourt counterparts.

Kyle Alexander’s struggles with foul trouble have withered away a bit, but the big man hasn’t reached double digits in scoring in weeks. With the postseason right around the corner, that isn’t necessarily ideal for a team looking to make a deep run.

While this group hasn’t been reeling by any means, a few minor tweaks may be necessary if they hope to regain their previous form.

Grade: B-

Backcourt

While the numbers may say otherwise, the Vols’ backcourt didn’t experience its finest week.

Jordan Bowden has re-discovered his shooting stroke and confidence that was sorely lacking for a brief stretch, and Jordan Bone continues to pace Tennessee’s high-powered offense, but it’s the reigning co-SEC Sixth Man of the Year that hasn’t been himself.

Lamonte Turner was a combined 4 of 15 in 64 minutes, including a 1 of 11 mark from long distance this week.

The struggles that haunted him at Rupp Arena nearly a month ago made their presence felt on The Plains as well. For a team that has National Championship aspirations, that simply will not cut it.

Grade: C

Offense

One of the highest-scoring offenses in the country for much of the season, Tennessee has found itself at a bit of a crossroads.

Not only are they struggling to find their rhythm from 3-point range, the Vols are failing to capitalize from inside the arc as well. They didn’t reach 50 percent shooting in either matchup and managed just a 43 percent rate in their victory over Mississippi State.

Now third in Kenpom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings, Tennessee will be looking to turn that trend around in Nashville.

Grade: C-

Defense

It’s hard to criticize a defense that held a team to just 33 percent shooting on senior night, but the Vols have earned that right this week.

Their intensity and flare during their victory over Mississippi State was inspiring, but their lackluster effort with a conference title on the line was anything but.

One of the more experienced teams in all of college basketball, Tennessee continues to allow opponents to shoot the three at a high volume in important match ups. Auburn attempted 34 shots from beyond the arc and while they only connected on 13, the bleeding ceased to stop.

Until the Vols can find a way to defend the deep ball at a high level, they’re going to find themselves in a lot of close games that they have no business being in.

Grade: C+

Coaching

Rick Barnes has continuously preached about improvement since he arrived in Knoxville.

The Vols have made tremendous strides under his leadership, but something has been missing during the second half of SEC play. While that’s not completely on the coaching staff, it’s their job to have the team prepared for what lies ahead.

Tennessee has fared quite well in first halves, but have routinely fallen apart in crunch time recently and that’s a trend that Barnes must put a stop to.

Grade: B

Overall

It may seem like a broken record, but Tennessee just hasn’t resembled its early season form and it’s alarming for a team that won 19 straight games at one point.

With the regular season now in the books and a chance to redeem themselves in Nashville less than a week away, the Vols finally get the chance for redemption that they have been looking forward to all year.

The chip on their shoulder has only grown, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Grade: C

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