The Vols have been frustrating at times, but tonight wasn't one of them. Playing well at home against an LSU team that's both young and banged up doesn't say much about your overall skill, but not playing down to the competition hasn't always been one of our strengths...and tonight, Tennessee took control early and cruised to a 22 point win.
It's what good teams do to inferior competition, and tonight Scotty Hopson did what the best player on the floor is supposed to do: 17 points in the first half, 22 and 7 rebounds for the game. When Scotty gets off to a good start, the Vols typically follow, and tonight Hopson had a throwdown and an and-one in the game's first three minutes. Tennessee built a double digit lead in the first ten minutes and never looked back.
LSU brought out the zone, and the Vols responded with 10 three pointers (the third straight opponent to hit 10 threes against the Tigers). The starters were especially good from three, as Hopson, Cameron Tatum, Melvin Goins, and Tobias Harris were 8 of 17 from the arc. The other two came from Skylar McBee, who has come alive in the last two weeks.
But the Vols also got plenty of points from great ball movement and inside play, 20 assists on 29 made baskets. When combined with only 8 turnovers (and only 2 in the first half), it made everything run more smoothly and helped Tennessee finally break through against a Trent Johnson defense.
Everybody contributed: Tobias Harris had yet another double-double with an 11-11, joining Goins (11 points, 5 assists, 0 turnovers) and Tatum (13 points, 4 rebounds) in double figures. John Fields had 4 blocks, Brian Williams had 6 offensive rebounds, and the Vols got 16 from the bench. Meanwhile, LSU shot just 34.0% from the field and just 21.7% from the arc (would've been worse if not for Matt Derenbecker's 30 footers to open the game).
At its best, this Tennessee team has been about great defense, great ball movement, and great play from Scotty Hopson. We got all three again tonight, and when we do the Vols will beat more than just the SEC West.
But the West is who we've got for the next three, and we'll take this one and the confidence it should inspire and head to Oxford on Saturday. One down, three to go. We play like this, we'll get 'em all...and have lots of fun along the way.