Another close loss for Tennessee against an opponent that was certainly better than Austin Peay and playing at home, but that's not making any of us feel better right now. We continue to adjust our expectations of this basketball team on the fly, but we also continue to see many of the same problems emerge in Tennessee's losses, especially to mid-major teams:
- The defense isn't good enough. Charleston was atrocious shooting the ball in the first half and the Vols built a lead of as many as thirteen before the Cougars whittled it down to four at halftime. But in the second half, Charleston scored at will, finishing at 49.0% for the game. Austin Peay shot 59.1%. Oakland shot 43.5%. There were a couple of interesting quotes attributed to Cuonzo Martin during the broadcast tonight - that his freshmen were his hardest workers, and that his team would be different by February - but right now, for a team who were would told would be about defense first, it's severely lacking against mid-major opponents.
- The inside game disappeared in the second half. This, to me, was the primary culprit against Austin Peay: Jeronne Maymon and Kenny Hall dominated in the first half, but the Governors went zone and Tennessee never went back to them. Tonight, Dwight Miller was a revelation in the first half with 13 points. He didn't even attempt a shot in the second half. Jeronne Maymon scored his ninth point with 14:05 to play. And for the second game in a row, he didn't attempt a shot in the final fourteen minutes. Explain this to me, please.
- We probably take too many threes. There wasn't much ground to stand on before tonight, because the Vols were shooting so well from the arc. And thanks to a late flurry from Jordan McRae tonight, UT goes in the books at 31.0% against Charleston - not terrible. But when you attempt 29 of them at the expense of your inside game, you allow runs like the one we saw tonight: in love with the three ball to snap you out of it that never falls, leading to easier opportunities for Charleston on the other end. Tennessee is not a bad three point shooting team. But Tennessee would be a better team if they didn't forget about their best player for the last fourteen minutes of a game. Whether that's Cuonzo's fault or the team is just selfish and panics or both, it has to be fixed or this will keep happening.