This was better. You may not be in the mood to compare consecutive double digit losses, and that’s fair, but this was a notable improvement over our midweek thumping in Columbia.
The problem is that Tennessee is much better than South Carolina. The Vols are a legitimate threat to win the SEC, and the unfortunate truth is that we just can’t hang when they make as few mistakes as they made today.
We hit three of our first four shots. That’s good! We then hit one of our next eight shots. That’s bad! We closed the half hitting 5-6 from beyond the arc. That’s good again! The first half was many things, but it was not consistent offensive basketball. Tennessee got hot early, and we cooled off for large stretches during the middle of the half. Our late barrage kept things interesting, and we have Flagg to thank for that, but to be honest I felt slightly fortunate to only be down seven at the half
Halftime Score: Tennessee 37, Texas A&M 30
Tennessee is a good team, and they were playing well. In that context, it’s impressive that we held the deficit between 14 and 10 for the majority of the second half. They would have blown our doors off had we submitted the effort from our midweek beating at South Carolina, so that’s important to note. Having said that... we’re looking at a really unfortunate fact pattern. We are 1-4 against power five schools, with all four losses coming by an average of 20 points. Our lone win? A last-second win against last-place Auburn, who had yet to receive the services of a five star freshman that just dropped 26 points and 9 assists in their latest game.
It ain’t great.
Final Score: Tennessee 68, Texas A&M 54
- Rebounding was a huge problem at South Carolina, and we responded well on that front with 14 offensive rebounds and a 31-23 rebounding advantage
- As we noted above, Flagg was instrumental in keeping things close early, leading the team with 12 points on the afternoon.
- Our turnover rate eclipsed 25 percent for the seventh time in ten games. We aren’t going anywhere until that improves.
Not all double-digit losses are created equal. Tennessee is the best team we’ve played this season, and they look like strong contenders to stick around beyond the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Our effort today was much better, and perhaps could have seriously challenged teams like South Carolina or TCU.
The next step is make this our baseline. To make this our consistent level of effort and execution as we approach a stretch with three out of four games on the road. If we continue to build this performance, we can absolutely grab one (or two) those four. If we don’t... we could be headed for the cellar. Next up is a midweek trip to Starkville to face a surging Mississippi State.