The Tennessee Volunteers handled the thin air and an energized environment with a 69-54 victory on the road against Colorado Saturday afternoon. The Vols countered every Colorado punch and played elite defense the entire game.
Here are three takeaways from Tennessee’s win over the Buffaloes.
Kennedy Chandler is elite
This fact was obvious before Saturday’s game, but Chandler has now elevated his status from one of the best freshmen in the country to one of the best players period.
Chandler took over the scoring for the Vols after Santiago Vescovi picked up his second foul just nine minutes into the game and was forced to sit the rest of the first half.
Vescovi scored 8 of Tennessee’s first 14 points, and the Vols' offense looked all kinds of flustered when he was forced to sit. That is until Chandler took over and scored 16 of the Vols’ 34 first half points.
“He’s got great acceleration, great pace. He can get off the ground and make some things happen,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said about Chandler. “He’s a very unselfish player.”
Chandler finished the game with 27 points that included four or five finishes at the rim that would seem impossible for almost anyone else. Chandler’s 13 made field-goals is also the most a Tennessee player has scored in a game since 2013.
Road wins are always great wins
Playing on the road in college basketball is incredibly tough, and the crowd of nearly 9,000 people in Boulder, Colorado, brought the energy. That fact made Tennessee’s big win even more impressive.
This is the first time the Vols have had to deal with a large opposing crowd in two years as COVID-19 restrictions were still in place last season. The crowd had a big effect on UT early, leading to missed layups and uncharacteristic mistakes, but Tennessee settled down and ended up handling the external factor really well.
There were multiple points in the game where it felt like the Buffs were about to make a run and the crowd was about to explode, but Tennessee always responded and quieted the fans.
The Vols handled business on the road in a really impressive and mature way which should bode well for future road trips in the SEC.
Josiah-Jordan James returned in a big way
Tennessee junior Josiah-Jordan James returned from a torn finger ligament for the first time in four games against Colorado and made a massive impact on both sides of the floor.
James came off the bench for the Vols and finished with 5 points and 9 rebounds in 26 minutes, including a three with eight minutes to go that extended Tennessee’s lead to 8. On the defensive side, James recorded 2 steals and finished with 4 blocks.
“He was terrific. People will look at his numbers, but his demeanor is outstanding. He came up with big rebounds and big blocked shots,” Barnes said about James’ performance.
Josiah-Jordan James is a true difference maker in Tennessee’s lineup, and having him healthy is certainly important for the Vol’s future success.