What do we do now?
After every loss over the past three weeks, we could carry away a positive narrative. We were missing multiple starters. We were playing in Rupp Arena. The ref missed an easy call to screw us. They hit a ridiculous 40 footer to win. All true, and all things that found us rationalizing an 0-4 start for a team previously ranked #5 in the nation.
But now? In the harsh morning light after dropping to 0-5? There are no positive takeaways. We were finally at full strength, and we didn’t show up. National pundits are calling us the most disappointing team in the country, and I really don’t have a counter argument at the moment.
Let’s break it down.
Discipline, discipline, discipline
Our focus and attention to detail were poor all evening, but they were especially poor early. We committed thirteen first half turnovers, and our usually reliable rebounding margin (an SEC-leading +8.5) vanished behind a slew of poor positioning an apparent decision that blocking out was going to be optional. As a result, Tennessee had eleven more field goal attempts in the first half. Had we not come out of the blocks shooting very well in our limited opportunities (5-8 from beyond the arc in the first half), this one could have been over early.
Halftime Score: Tennessee 36, Texas A&M 28
Depth and Balance... just not by us
Tennessee came into this game with two clear scoring leaders (Williams and Schofield)... and neither one shot well, but the Volunteer second unit came in and absolutely crushed it. Meanwhile, our second unit of Caldwell, Flagg, and Starks combined for zero points, one assist, one rebound and four turnovers.
When combined with our continued lazy passing on offense and a somehow even worse performance on the glass in the second half, it was pretty easy to see why we never really challenged Tennessee for much of the evening. Special shouts to our defensive focus, as we repeatedly left a 60% three point shooter (Bowden) wide-ass open.
We did finally wake up in the latter portion of the second half, closing the deficit to as little as six... but we never got any closer. Kudos to Tennessee for closing the game out with their free throw shooting, hitting their last six down the stretch en route to a 20-23 evening from the stripe.
Final Score: Tennessee 75, Texas A&M 62
Where do we go from here?
Honestly, I have no clue.
In prior weeks, I had taken some solace in the circumstance of our losses... but I’ve got nothing to cling to this week. I’m officially in a “show me” state with this team, as it has been almost two months (at USC) since we submitted 40 minutes of quality basketball.
Our next chance to get it right comes on Tuesday night against Ole Miss. It’s a game I would have marked as an almost certain W three weeks ago... but a great deal has changed since then.
BTHO Ole Miss