No. 13 Tennessee was dominant across the board in a 94-40 win over Alcorn State. It was the largest margin of victory of the season and the most complete performance of the season.
Olivier Nkamhoua and Julian Phillips led the way with a combined 38 points as the Vols had the gas on from start to finish.
“The other night against McNeese, we won the game,” Barnes said. “But we weren't the hardest playing team on the court the other night. We wanted to see if we could do that tonight.”
Here are some takeaways from the blowout win.
The Vols were firing on all cylinders all game. Tyreke Key got things started with a three on the opening possession, and it was all Tennessee from there. The Vols closed the first half with 49 points compared to Alcorn State’s 22.
Ball movement on offense was at its best of the season while committing just three total turnovers in the first half. The lack of a pure point guard seems to be affecting the Vols less and less with the passing of each game. Zakai Zeigler has been able to play that role the best he can, but it has largely been by committee.
The team finished with 27 assists and each rotational player finished with at least one assist.
“The fact that we assisted on 27 of 33 baskets — that’s how we were at our best,” Barnes said. “We were able to turn some turnovers into some baskets, that obviously makes it easier in some ways, but that was a good defensive effort. Overall, I will tell you it was probably our most complete game and on both ends in terms of concentration.”
By the end of the night, six Vols had reached double-digit scoring, including Zeigler along with the entire starting lineup.
The frontcourt all around was impressive with the starters combining for 50 points. However, the playmaking out of the group was the most impressive in the offensive clinic that the Vols put on. Nkamhoua finished with a team-high six assists, Phillips finished with three and Plavsic finished with two.
“I was just looking to do the things that we practice and the things that we've been working on last couple of games,” Nkamhoua said. “So, they just came in within our offense and what we do — me getting to my spots and my guys getting to theirs.”
Nkamhoua was excellent in the high-low game with Plavsic and the three were able to find cutters with ease as a result of their height advantage. Plavsic found a cutting Jahmai Mashack for an emphatic dunk.
The frontcourt scoring was great. However, if they can continue to distribute the ball at that level, the offense becomes so much more dangerous and dynamic.
Julian Phillips improving rapidly
With each passing game, Julian Phillips gets better as he grows more comfortable in Rick Barnes’ system. On Sunday, he had 18 and he has now scored double-digits in every game since Colorado with the exception of Kansas.
“Yeah, I mean, he's doing what and what we see him do every day,” Josiah-Jordan James said. “You know, he competes at a high level. I think he's a great competitor. And he's a really good basketball player. I mean, the guy was a McDonald's all American for a reason.”
On top of his scoring, he filled up the rest of the stat sheet with four rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.
Barnes says that Phillips is getting much better on the defensive end but feels there is still much room for improvement. At the rate he has progressed in the short time since he’s stepped foot on campus, the sky's the limit for what he could be by season’s end.
“He’s got a terrific feel for the game. He's had a lot thrown at him. He's competitive. He's just has some instincts that you wish you could teach a lot of guys but he's got it. But the fact is he's extremely coachable. He wants to be good.”