Men's Basketball vs. Presbyterian

Tennessee's head coach Rick Barnes during the men's basketball game vs. Presbyterian in Thompson-Boling Arena on Nov. 30, 2021.

Following a convincing win over Colorado on Saturday, the No. 13 Tennessee men’s basketball team traveled to New York City for a matchup with Texas Tech in the Jimmy V Classic Tuesday night from Madison Square Garden.

The Vols left their offense in Boulder, Colorado, as they shot an alarming 15% from three-point range en route to a 57-52 loss to unranked Texas Tech.

Here’s how the Vols graded out in New York City.

Frontcourt

John Fulkerson had the best night of any Vols in The Garden, though there was not much competition for that award. He put up a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds as the Vols lost for the second time this season. Fulkerson was a menace on defense, picking up 6 defensive rebounds and 5 blocks.

Olivier Nkamhoua has all but disappeared since he led the Vols past ETSU in mid-November. He scored a single field goal for the third-straight game, finishing with a lowly 2 points against Texas Tech. Like Fulkerson, Nkamhoua did impact the game on defense – 2 blocks – but his play has been underwhelming over the last two weeks.

Josiah-Jordan James appeared in his second game back from an injury that kept him out of the lineup for several weeks. He picked up right where he left off in rebounding – snagging 9 boards, including 8 on defense – but his lingering finger problem affected his shot.

James made 2-of-12 field goals, but his biggest of the night was a game-tying three in the final minutes of regulation. James had a chance to win the game for the Vols earlier on a fastbreak play, but he slipped and hyper-extended his knee on a layup, missing the easy basket.

When Fulkerson and Nkamhoua were rotated out of the game, Uros Plavsic was the first big man off the bench, despite his recent slump. Though he stands at 7-foot-0 tall, Plavsic looked overwhelmed on the court and he made his share of mistakes. He played 10 minutes in the loss, scoring 1 basket while picking up a rebound and a foul.

Tennessee’s other big man, the freshman Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, played less than half of the time that Plavsic did, and in that time, grabbed a rebound and drew a foul.

Grade: C-

Backcourt

For maybe the second time this season, Kennedy Chandler looked like an inexperienced freshman point guard on the court. Texas Tech’s defense gave him fits, clogging up the inside lanes that he wore out against Colorado.

The former five-star totaled 9 points on 4-of-13 shooting and hit only 1 three-point attempt. Running the point, Chandler had as many assists (5) as turnovers (5), and he sat out a portion of the game in foul trouble.

Santiago Vescovi did not fare much better than Chandler, also finishing with 9 points. He shot 3-for-14 but did make a team-high 2 triples, one of which tied the game in the late stages of the second half. Vescovi also added 5 rebounds, an assist and 2 steals.

Like many of his other teammates, the sharpshooter Victor Bailey Jr. struggled to find his stroke, especially from deep. Bailey made 1-of-6 shots on the night, all of which were beyond the arc. He did make himself known on defense, snagging 5 defensive boards.

Zakai Zeigler provided his usual spark off the bench, but even he wasn’t immune to the Vols’ struggles. Zeigler made 3-of-10 shots on the night – including a 1-for-7 mark from deep – to finish with 9 points. He also picked up 4 personal fouls in 30 minutes.

Justin Powell’s final line says a lot about how uncharacteristic the Vols’ loss was. Powell, usually Tennessee’s most accurate shooter – finished 5-for-5 from three against Presbyterian – missed all 3 attempts he took from three-point range against Texas Tech.

Grade: D

Offense

Tuesday night was the Vols’ worst offensive showing of the season. Texas Tech’s excellent defense held Tennessee to a season-low in points (52), field goal percentage (26.8%) and three-point percentage (15.4%).

The most apparent issue was Tennessee’s three-point shooting. A byproduct of Texas Tech’s defense scheme, the Vols got numerous good looks from beyond the arc, but they could not connect. Tennessee made an abysmal 6-of-39 three-point attempts.

The Vols also struggled to take advantage of the free shots they were given. They made 8-of-16 attempts at the free-throw line, which loomed large in a 5-point loss.

The missed shots would not have been as much an issue if the Vols had rebounded and gotten some second chances, but they couldn’t do that either. Tennessee had just 10 offensive rebounds compared to Texas Tech’s 44 on defense.

It was probably just an off night for the Vols, and the pressure that came with the venue might have factored into the misses as well. Not many teams can take nearly 40 threes and make only 6.

Regardless, Tennessee will need its confidence and its shot back before several difficult matchups in the next few weeks.

Grade: D

Defense

Tennessee’s defense played its best game of the season Tuesday night, holding a very good Texas Tech team to under 60 points, including five minutes of overtime. Of course, it came at the same time as Tennessee’s historically bad shooting night, rendering the defense virtually meaningless in the loss.

Still, their effort was enough to move the Vols’ defense to the No. 1 spot in KenPom’s defensive rankings.

The Vols logged 8 blocks and 6 steals while holding the Red Raiders to 57 points. Fulkerson was a large part of that, blocking 5 shots himself. Nkamhoua had a pair of blocks, and James led the Vols with 3 steals.

Tennessee forced 15 Texas Tech turnovers and held the Red Raiders to a poor shooting night of their own – 31% from the field and 16.7% from deep.

Grade: A+

Coaching

Rick Barnes could not do anything to help the Vols standing on the sideline Tuesday night. He had already done his part, and he did it well quite frankly.

Barnes’ scheme to counteract Texas Tech’s defense with a barrage of threes worked perfectly – apart from the fact the Vols missed nearly all of them. They had consistently open shots on the perimeter, largely due to Barnes’ game plan.

The only criticism to even make against the Tennessee staff was that they didn’t make the players stop shooting threes. Barnes stuck with his game plan and the percentages – a 15% night from deep is so rare, that in his mind, shots had to start falling at some point. It’s hard to fault Barnes there.

Grade: B+

Overall

This is one that the Vols need to forget, in a sense that in college basketball, each loss does not weigh as heavily in the end as it does in other sports such as college football.

As long as they can clean up their shooting, there’s no need for the Vols to dwell on this statistical anomaly longer than needed. Saturday’s contest with UNC Greensboro is the perfect opportunity to put that game in the rearview mirror and get back their confidence.

Grade: D

UT Sponsored Content