This past week Tennessee Basketball had two tough losses. On Tuesday, the Vols were out-rebounded by a struggling Texas A&M team and then fell to a quality Mississippi State team on Saturday.
Here’s how Tennessee graded out.
Fulkerson played well against the Aggies. He shot seven out of nine attempts from the field and led the team in rebounds, pulling down seven, which was a third of the Vols’ boards. He was the only player for Tennessee who managed an offensive rebound. He also managed to draw six fouls while only committing four of his own.
Against the Bulldogs, Fulkerson did have a bit of a down game after a stretch of terrific play. He only shot 2-9 from the field, but he made both of his free throw attempts. Again, for the second time last week, Fulkerson led the team in rebounds with five.
Bowden did not have a good week, following his zero-point first half at Kansas. During the Texas A&M game, he shot 33.3 percent from field. The problem, however, was that he was 1-7 from three and that the one successful three came late in the second half. He also turned the ball over three times to the Aggies.
Against Mississippi State, Bowden once again was scoreless in the first half. When he did get involved in the scoring, he finished with 12 points. He also earned two rebounds, two assists but gave away two turnovers.
Pons played decent in the Aggies matchup, scoring six points and shooting 50 percent from the field, while making five of his six free throw attempts. Pons also contributed by securing three defensive rebounds and blocking two shots but had the worst +/- rating on the team. On Saturday, Pons shot 33.3 percent from the field including two crucial three-pointers. He also added an assist and a block.
Vescovi did not shoot well from the field in the Texas A&M game, but he went 5-6 on free throws. He also shot much better against the Bulldogs, and also added four rebounds this past week. Vescovi has had trouble with turnovers and bringing the ball up the court with pace, but the freshman seems to be improving as he matures in the system.
Josiah-Jordan James / Uros Plavsic
James started on Tuesday, shooting 60 percent and finishing with seven points. He was able to get three rebounds, however that was negated by the four turnovers that he gave up to the Aggies. James also fouled out while not drawing any fouls by the opposition.
Plavsic stated against Mississippi State in place of the injured James and acquitted himself well. He shot 50 percent from the field, and 66.7 percent from the charity stripe, finishing the game with 16 points. The Serbian also pulled down three rebounds and created two assists.
In the Texas A&M game, the bench did play well, with Jalen Johnson being the only reserve to score. The entire bench combined to contribute only three rebounds. However, both Johnson and Olivier Nkamhoua blocked three shots for the Vols.
In the weekend matchup, the bench was extended as Plavsic was called into starting duty. Johnson, Nkamhoua and Drew Pember all found their names on the stat sheet, and Davonte Gains, who had two rebounds, also saw minutes. Johnson led the bench with 13 points and five assists.
The Aggies shot 30.4 percent in Tennessee’s first game of the week. For comparison, Texas A&M has averaged shooting 39.1 percent this season. The Vols were also able to generate 23 turnovers on the defensive end of the court. The Mississippi State game was a different story. The Bulldogs, who usually shoot 46.7 percent, shot 57.1 percent against Tennessee. In the second half comeback, Mississippi State was shooting 69.2 percent from the field.
Coach Barnes has proven that he is an elite coach, and the problems in these two games, if isolated, should not fall back on him. A man can only yell so much when his team gets out-toughed by a lower quality team in a crucial game. He can’t help it if his star player disappears for a half in the same game that another one of his starting five can’t play due to injury.
However, if these issues, as well as Vescovi’s turnovers, do not improves then Barnes’ grade will drop as it all ultimately falls on the head coach.
The Vols had set themselves up with momentum for a possible NCAA tournament. They seemed to have gotten things figured out after the Georgia game, and with their play in the Ole Miss and Kansas games, that they had the ability to pull off some upsets in the coming weeks. Tennessee could still pull off upsets in the coming games, but those games will likely not have playoff implications.