Tennessee vs App State

Dec 15, 2020; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Keon Johnson (45) and forward E.J. Anosike (55) and guard Yves Pons (35) and guard Jaden Springer (11) and guard Santiago Vescovi (25) during the first half against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8 Tennessee continued its 2020-2021 season with a pair of dominant wins against Appalachian State and Tennessee Tech. Defensively the Vols continued to shine and impose their will on their opponents. Offensively the Vols finally found their side as they were able to use their defense to create offense. 

Here’s how the Vols graded out against Appalachian State and Tennessee Tech. 

Backcourt

Tennessee’s backcourt continued its strong play during the second week of the season as they continued to be the driving force in the Vols’ consistent play. 

Josiah Jordan James has turned into Mr. Do it all for the Vols, his versatility on the offensive and defensive side of the court has made him one of the Vols’ most important players. 

On the week James scored 26 points and shot an efficient 75% from behind the three-point line. He also shot 59% from the field. 

James was the Vols best rebounder on the week, grabbing 14 rebounds in total, eight against Appalachian State and six against Tennessee Tech. James got some playing time at the four which he took full advantage of as he used his speed and athleticism to take advantage of his bigger defenders. 

Victor Bailey Jr. has continued to impart his consistent play in the Vols backcourt with solid scoring and defense. 

Bailey scored 28 points on the week and while he did make three three-pointers on the week he used his quickness to attack the basket and open up his midrange game, going 11-for-22 from the field during the week. 

Santiago Vescovi struggled to find his offensive game this week as he only scored five points against Appalachian State and zero points against Tennessee Tech. 

Vescovi was able to find his teammates on the offensive end as he tallied seven assists on the week and still was able to affect the game on the defensive end of the court.  

The Vols backcourt will be the driving force in their success this season. 

Grade: A-

Frontcourt

John Fulkerson and Yves Pons are still trying to assert themselves on the court but had a strong progression of their play in week two of the season. 

Against the Mountaineers, Fulkerson scored an efficient 12 points, shooting 66% from the field while also grabbing five rebounds.

Fulkerson had another solid outing when the Golden Eagles came to town as he scored 13 points and shot 60% from the field while continuing to hustle in the paint, grabbing six more rebounds. 

Pons was able to be more efficient in his shot selection this week and it showed in the stat sheet. Pons scored seven points against Appalachian State and followed that up with a 10 point performance against Tennessee Tech. 

As Pons tries to find more consistency on the offensive end of the court, he hasn’t ceased his tenacious play on defense and rebounding the basketball. Pons grabbed 11 rebounds on the week while also continuing to protect the rim for the Vols with impressive blocks in both games. 

The Vols' frontcourt will be the thing that can truly cement them as one of the elite teams in college basketball this year if they can play at a consistent level. 

Grade: B+

Offense

In the first week of the season, the Vols offense struggled largely due to the two-week quarantine break the team had to take. 

Having another week of basketball under their belts, the Vols took a drastic leap in their offensive output.

The Vols shot well above 40% in both games this week as they shot 49% from the field against Appalachian State and 58% against Tennessee Tech. The Vols also took a massive jump in their three-point shooting percentage as they shot 40% from behind the arc on the week. 

Tennessee had just 13 combined turnovers this week, six against Appalachian State and seven against Tennessee Tech. 

The Vols were able to get more high percentage shots this week because they were getting the ball into the paint and using their size and athleticism to overpower their opponents. The Vols combined for 108 points in the paint this week. 

Grade A-

Defense 

In the second week of the season, Tennessee’s defense continued to be elite while fulfilling the potential they had at the beginning of the season. 

The Vols were able to hold their opponents to just 43.5 points per contest and 29% shooting from the field.

Appalachian State only managed to score 38 points against the Vols which was a record for the least amount of points scored against a Rick Barnes coached team at Tennessee. 

Tennessee was able to turn defense into offense as they scored 19 points off of turnovers against Appalachian State and 25 points off of turnovers against Tennessee Tech. 

Grade: A+

Bench 

E.J. Anosike continued to develop his role in the Vols system in week two of the season. 

Anosike struggled offensively in his first two games as a Vol and while his point totals did not rise much this week, his efficiency did. Anosike scored six points against the Mountaineers while going two-of-three from the field and two-of-two from the free-throw line while also grabbing six rebounds. 

Against the Golden Eagles Anosike also went two-of-three from the field, this time for four points, he also chipped in four rebounds. The energy he brings on both sides of the court is infectious when he checks into the game. 

Olivier Nkamhoua once again was the Vols fourth man off of the bench this week and earned 18 total minutes. Nkamhoua continued to do some good things on the court and as the coaches continue to help him realize his potential, expect him to possibly earn more minutes. 

Vols fans got another first-hand experience in seeing the growth of freshmen Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer this week. The duo totaled a combined 45 minutes against Appalachian State as Johnson scored six points and grabbed four rebounds. Springer scored 12 points and continued to be a nightmare for opposing guards on defense. 

Against the Golden Eagles, the freshmen would continue to stuff the stat sheet as they continued to out their talent on display. 

Johnson scored 13 points in 17 minutes and grabbed four rebounds while also dishing out three assists. 

Springer had an offensive explosion in the first half against Tennessee Tech scoring 17 points. He finished the game with 21 points in 22 minutes while serving up six assists and using his athleticism to grab six rebounds. 

As stated in last week’s basketball grades, as Springer and Johnson continue to develop, we don’t expect to be writing about them in the bench section for much longer.

Grade: A

Coaching

Rick Barnes and his staff continue to impress as the Vols navigate the young season. 

The Vols stuck to a consistent substitution method of starting a more veteran lineup before going to the freshmen and E.J. Anosike off the bench which paid off as they didn’t skip a beat against Appalachian State and Tennessee Tech.

The step the Vols took offensively this week bodes well for their success against future opponents as down the road. 

Grade: A+

Overall

Getting two more games under their belt has paid dividends for the Vols as they’ve been able to finally find an offensive rhythm. 

The Vols will need to continue to find what group of five players fit best together so they can maximize players’ time on the court. 

This next week will be a good time for the Vols to figure that out as they play two winless teams in Saint Joseph’s and the University of South Carolina Upstate before going on the road to No.16 Missouri to open SEC play.

Grade: A

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