This team played as hard as any I've ever seen. Gee, Hollinger, Hendrix, and Hillman seemed to go full speed after every loose ball at both ends of the court all night, but we didn't always play smart, we made some bad in-game decisions, and we didn't make the plays down the stretch, so now we're 1-5 in SEC play.
We were very fortunate that we did not get blown out in the first 5 or 6 minutes of the game. We started off in a man to man defense, and UT spread the floor and used their quickness to get to the basket. We gave up a ton of shots in the paint early. Fortunately for us, UT couldn't make a layup in the early going. I think we stayed with Rico at PG for too long. It was obvious very early on that he was not going to have a good game. He made poor decisions on the break, turning what should have been easy baskets into turnovers. He also missed several scoring opportunities because he was not keeping his head up. No points, 3 assists, and 5 turnovers is not what you are looking for out of your PG.
When we switched to the zone, we were able to force ut to take more low percentage shots. The problem was that we couldn't rebound out of it. I thought we did a tremendous job of rebounding on the offensive end, with Gee, Hendrix, Jemison, and even Riley putting forth a lot of effort to keep us in the game with 2nd chance points, but we were still outrebounded 41-32. As I said before the game, I liked the idea of playing a zone, but I thought we should have changed it up a little bit from time to time to keep them off balance, but we essentially stayed in the same defense for the entire second half.
I think it is time to replace Jemison in the starting lineup. He plays hard and probably pulls down more rebounds than he should, but his shooting seems to have regressed from last year. He was 1 for 5 last night, and I don't think any of those were from more than 8 feet. He can't even make a layup right now, and he doesn't have the size to be a great defender down low. Coleman isn't going to score either, but at least he can help defend the paint and maybe pull down a few more rebounds. It would be nice to see what Knox could do from time to time, but we haven't made any effort to get him playing time and help him develop. We need somebody to step up and compliment Hendrix in the paint.
Hollinger shot the ball well, but struggled at times with the pressure at point, mostly due to his size. He needs to realize that his game should be to look for the perimeter shot, he tried to attack the basket a couple of times with less than desirable results. You're not going to score many layups driving to the hoop in the SEC if you are under 6 ft.
I liked the lineup we used late in the 1st half when we had all 3 PGs on the court, but I would have much rather have seen Torrance running the point than Rico at that point.
We still do not seem to grasp the fundamental basics of breaking a press. I was having flashbacks to the Clemson game when, at the start of the 2nd half, we were unable to even get the ball across halfcourt and gave up a 10-0 run. We had at least 3 turnovers because we wouldn't run the baseline after a made basket.
Tennessee is obviously a better team. They now have some players to compliment Chris Lofton. Lofton made 5 from beyond the arc, and 3 of those were uncontested. Riley, Hillman, and Hollinger respectively either got caught out of position or were too slow to close on him. JuJuan Smith killed us from beyond the arc, and for the most part, his shots were contested, with a couple of exceptions. Still, Tennessee did not play their best game. They ended up with even more turnovers than we had, and most of those were unforced. They made poor passes, dropped balls, and missed a lot of easy shots. Considering that we got great games out of Hendrix, Gee, Torrance, Hollinger, and Hillman, we should have been able to pull off the upset at home. Turnovers, piss poor pathetic free throw shooting, and some bad decisions regarding personnel and defensive sets sealed our fate. Everytime we made a run in the 2nd half, Tennessee would answer with a key 3 pointer. Give credit to them for making the shots when they had to, many of which were well contested.
There was a good crowd of 11,800 on hand, and I would say that number appeared to be fairly accurate. The student turnout was much better than the auburn game, but the general public turnout was not as good. Once again, it appeared in my area that a lot of Tide Pride members are giving away their tickets these days. I can't say that I blame them.
Up next, Brady's Bayou Bengals pay us a visit Saturday at 2pm to determine who is the worst team in the SEC right now. We need another blowout win like we had against auburn to give us some confidence going into 2 tough road games next week, at $tarkville and Lexington.