If there's ever a time to lose a basketball game, with regard to identifying problems and needing them to get fixed, a game that doesn't count is undoubtedly best. The optimist in us will cite the loss as a team coming out flat to an opponent they didn't care for and rotations the likes of which we'll never see beyond the darkness of tonight, while the pessimists (see also: opposing fans) will point to a team that lacks mental discipline, a coach who can't concentrate through off-season troubles, and woefully horribly shooting performance bolstered by a lack of offensive intensity or technique.
So let's deal with the facts, first, and draw conclusions of the playing from there. In most losses there are one or two stats that jump out at you, and in Tennessee's case, tonight there were three:
|Free Throws||14-27 (51%)||33-40 (83%)|
|3 Pointers||7-29 (24%)||4-15 (27%)|
So, why do I think Tennessee lost by 15 points to a team that shouldn't have been within 15 of the Vols? Stop me if you've heard this before, after the jump:
- Where's Hopson? If you wanted to catch sight of Scotty Hopson at the end of the game you had to look at the bench, where Hopson, along with Skylar McBee, sat with 5 fouls each. Scotty Hopson continues to answer questions about his consistency in the worst way for us fans: by proving that it is a problem. Scotty's stat line was as follows: 0-1 FG, 0-1 3PT, 3-6 FT, 1 Ass, 3 TO, 5 Fouls. Quite simply that is not excusable for a guy who was a second-team All-SEC selection for the preseason and has NBA aspirations.
- Out-Bruced. Make no mistake: tonight Tennessee got out Bruce-balled by a former player of Pearl's at Southern Indiana, Stan Gouard. Tennessee spent 35 minutes trying to figure out just how quick and scrappy Indianapolis was on defense, and that translated into 25 turnovers, and it really felt like more than that, even. Indianapolis was a smaller, quicker, and more focused team that jumped passing lanes and went for (and got) steals, which translated into a ton of easy points or foul chances.
- Speaking of Fouls... When your opponent is +19 at the charity stripe, you will lose ball games. While many of the fouls on Tennessee were a bit iffy, and I wasn't really impressed with the officiating, final-four caliber or not, make-up calls aren't anywhere in the rule-book that the refs really flaunted tonight, calling numerous very, very, very light contact fouls. Tennessee has to adjust to this, though, and they really didn't do a good job of that at all.
- Small Guards Continue to give UT trouble. Most of Indianapolis' points came from their two starting guards, Darius Adams and Adrian Moss. The pair went 15-16 and 11-14 from the line, respectively, and ended with 27 and 20 points. They combined to have 11 rebounds, 13 assists, 5 turnovers, and 8 steals, though Indy's two best players also played 35 and 34 minutes.
- Shooting Woes. You can look at 24% from beyond the arc and know that there are problems there, but what's worse for the Vols is that they shot 17 second-half threes (making 4) and only 6 2-point shots that were fouls on Indianapolis and missed. That's horrible, for nearly 75% of the shots you take to be threes, and most of them were badly missed. Tatum was impressive, shooting 3-6 from deep and scoring a team-high 15 points, but beyond that nobody was the least bit encouraging, save Tobias Harris at times, though even he had his struggles at both ends of the court. All of this points to the worst and best thing you can see in an Exhibition game:
- Lack of Offensive and Defensive Intensity. I (as a fan) don't care who the opponent is, I want to see a team I cheer for play with their hearts and with at least some semblance of effort, and while I'm generally not one to criticize the guys who put forth the effort to train way more than I would and who chose to come and play for Tennessee, for the first 15 minutes of the second half I just didn't see anything there. It's the worst thing to see in an exhibition because it makes you start to wonder, and to worry, and it's the best because, well, every team comes out flat at some point in a season -- or every team I've seen. I hope that our guys learn from this loss -- which won't count on the win/loss column, and move on from there.
Questions for UNC-Ashville: who can be our second scorer to complement whoever does have the touch? Can we go inside against teams who are putting forth the effort to deny us the easy passes? Can we play for a full 40 minutes, and not just the first half oh crap I need some Dool-Aid gimmie gimmie.
For what it's worth, I still hold optimism that the season will be fine, and that the guys will get their heads in the game. It does, however, all begin and end with Scotty Hopson being the consistent player everyone knows he can be.