Tennessee men’s basketball continued its winning ways on Tuesday night against Appalachian State at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols overpowered the Mountaineers 79-38 and moved to 3-0 on the season.
Appalachian State’s 38 points are the least by a Tennessee opponent in the Rick Barnes era.
The Vols once again went with the veteran starting lineup of Victor Bailey Jr., Santiago Vescovi, Josiah Jordan James, Yves Pons and John Fulkerson. This starting lineup is the same with which the Vols have gone in the first two games of the season. The lineup echoes coach Rick Barnes's sentiment of the week that the players playing the most consistent game will get the most minutes on game day.
The Vols starting five started the game on a 6-0 run over the first 3:50 of the game. Fulkerson came out of the gates hot, scoring two quick buckets and helping out defensively as the Vols held the Mountaineers scoreless while being suffocating on the defensive end and forcing three turnovers.
Tennessee wouldn’t let its foot off the gas when Keon Johnson, Jaden Springer and E.J. Anosike entered the game at the 16:10 mark of the first half. The Vols extend their lead to 13-0 with stifling defense and tenacious rebounding.
The Mountaineers scored their first points of the game when Kendall Lewis was able to get to the free-throw line and make his first free throw of the game before missing the second shot.
The Vols would close the first half with a 36-13 lead. The lead was largely built on the back of the Vols defense that would hold the Mountaineers to just 18% shooting from the field while also forcing 10 turnovers.
“We take pride in our defense and getting a fast break point on the other end, ” Springer said. “We definitely take pride in our defense.”
On the glass, the Vols also flexed their muscle by grabbing 24 rebounds and holding the Mountaineers to 16.
Adrian Delph opened up the second half with a three-pointer for the Mountaineers but the tide of the game wouldn’t change in their favor. Michael Almonacy, the Mountaineer's leading scorer who finished with nine points would try to help get the offense going but the Vols continued defensive pressure and physicality would be too overpowering.
The progression of the Vols freshmen continued tonight as Springer had a career scoring night with 12 points while also shooting 75% from the field. Johnson would have an impressive game as he tallied six-points while also grabbing four rebounds and being a terror for the Mountaineers on defense with four steals.
“Jaden has a feel, I think he likes the way we play,” Barnes said on Jaden Springer's scoring ability. “He has a great knack and feel there. He’s an excellent finisher at the rim.”
Unlike the first two games of the season, offensively, the Vols we’re able to find their stride tonight. On the season Vols have averaged shooting 33% from the field but tonight they were well above their average, shooting an impressive 49%. The Vols were also able to improve on their three-point shooting as they shot 33.3% on the night which is improved compared to their 29% average on the season.
One of the reasons for the improvement tonight was Josiah James who scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds. James also went three for three from the three-point line tonight and has shown a real improvement in his shooting ability.
“ I definitely feel more comfortable having a year to play and an offseason to work on it, ” James on his shooting. “ I thought my teammates set me up really well tonight.”
In the paint the Vols dominated offensively, scoring 46 points compared to just 10 for the Mountaineers.
The Vols were able to finish the game, winning the rebounding battle 45-27 with 45 of those rebounds being offensive. The offensive rebounds led to 19 second-chance points for the Vols.
Defensively the Vols would finish with 13 steals which is tied for most in the Rick Barnes era. The Vols also forced 18 turnovers. The Vols were able to score 19 points off of the turnovers they forced.
“ The way we play defense is what we do every day in practice,” Barnes said. “I appreciate the way these guys go out and respect the game.”
The Vols will be in action again on Friday night when they welcome Tennessee Tech to Thompson-Boling Arena for a 7:00 p.m. ET tip-off on SEC Network +.