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Tennessee 93, Texas A&M 76

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Tennessee put together an incredible offensive performance. In truth, we did well to keep this game close as long as we did.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Texas A&M John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

I mean, what can you do?

The Tennessee Volunteers waltzed into Reed Arena with a thoroughly deserved #1 ranking, and they proceeded to execute one of the most ruthlessly efficient offensive displays I’ve ever seen. Their 93 points came from 31-42 (74%) shooting inside the arc and 9-20 (45%) shooting outside the arc, and they had a staggering 28-8 assist-to-turnover ratio. And they did it all with relatively no help from the free throw line (4-4).

In truth, we did well to keep this game close as long as we did.

Box Score

The Kill Shot

As Indiana-Michigan State started to run long and Arkansas-LSU tied up the SEC Network, A&M fans were hit with an unfortunate announcement: The start of our game would be shipped to ESPN3.

Y’all, the basketball gods saved us from a savage beating to start this game.

While the Aggies toiled away in the relative obscurity of online-only ESPN3-land, Tennessee jumped out to a 9-2 lead. By the time we were all able to fire off our snarky tweets about the game being over, the Vols increased the lead to 18-4. And finally, as Arkansas-LSU ended and opened up the SEC Network for alternate coverage, the game fell even further out of reach at 28-9. If you were calmly waiting on ESPN for our game to show up, this was effectively your reaction:

I’m going to be completely, 100% honest with everyone. I built my Saturday evening around the idea of “sticking around for this game as long as it was close,” and when we called a timeout at 28-9, I left the house for the evening. I can only imagine that I wasn’t alone, as twitter seemed to indicate that many Aggies were engaging their backup plans.

Which made the follow-up all the more surprising.

A&M came out of that timeout with a 10-0 run and generally kept the game within arm’s reach for the remainder of the half. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

Halftime Score: Tennessee 46, Texas A&M 39

So You’re Saying There’s A Chance

Our positive momentum wasn’t stalled by the halftime break. We continued to play well, Tennessee cooled of a little bit (finally), and we were able to close the gap to 60-58 with around twelve minutes remaining. The bench was pumped, Reed Arena was loud, and anything seemed possible.

Which meant, of course, that it was time for Tennessee to close the door.

The Volunteers did what really good teams do, outscoring the Aggies by 15 over those last twelve minutes to kill all hope and secure a road conference win. They were aggressive, balanced, and ruthless across the board… and looked every bit the part of a P5 conference champion.

Final Score: Tennessee 93, Texas A&M 76

Additional Notes

  • These Tennessee offensive numbers are truly absurd. Every Tennessee player who played greater than five minutes had a KenPom offensive rating above 100 (generally considered the benchmark for a good game). I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before… usually one sour effort spoils the bunch, but literally everyone in that gaudy shade of orange was hitting.
  • Mitchell played well, grabbing 18 points (all in the second half). He’s an indispensable offensive option, and it’s tough to see a path to 60+ points on nights where he isn’t hitting.
  • Last game I posed the theory that John Walker III might be regressing to a point where he doesn’t see minutes, and he didn’t see minutes last night. The Aggies tightened their rotation to seven players, so only Chandler and Mahan saw action off the bench.
  • Speaking of Mahan, that dude is as streaky as they come… and he was on last night. Brandon was 4-4 from beyond the arc, but he saw oddly little action in the second half. His defensive issues are well documented, but last night we flat weren’t stopping the Vols regardless of our personnel. On nights like that, the hot hand needs to see more minutes.

Overall Thoughts

I said it on Wednesday, and I’ll say it again: When good opponents play well, this roster flat isn’t winning that game. That was the theme last night, and that was the theme of the week.

The good news is that we’re done with the true contenders for a while, as our next three opponents are at or below .500 in SEC play. And while two of those three are on the road… we’ve generally been better away from home this season. So who knows. Maybe there’s a chance for some positive momentum yet? Next up is a trip to Ole Miss on Wednesday night.

BTHO Ole Miss