This Tennessee Basketball team is many things, but boring is not one of them, and that doesn't change regardless of opponent.
Tonight the Vols spotted ETSU 11 points in the first half, battled back to four at halftime, then finally took the lead midway through the second half. But the Bucs didn't go away, immediately taking the lead back and then pushing it to eight points. Time was running out on Tennessee in what could've been another brutal home loss to a local mid-major.
But Tennessee found their way on an 11-0 run that was sparked by the man of the hour: Kenny Hall played, by far, his best game in a Tennessee uniform this evening. His numbers might not suggest it - 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal - but every play Hall made was huge, and late in the game his fingerprints were all over that run. After Hall got an offensive rebound and a putback with four minutes to play, it was a Trae Golden and-one in transition that continued to fuel the fire. Then it was all Hall on three straight possessions: a massive block on one end, a dunk on a nice feed from Golden on the other, then a steal that led to another slam from Golden.
You see Trae's name here a lot too, which is great for him because he really struggled from the floor again but finished 4 of 9 thanks to that late flourish. He also hit all his free throws down the stretch, as did an ice cold Jordan McRae, to allow the Vols to push one point leads back to three in the final minute. Golden finishes with an impressive 11-4-6 stat line that can hopefully lead to greater things in the future.
But this was a team win, because until that 11-0 run, Cameron Tatum and Skylar McBee kept the Vols alive. Tatum shot 3 of 5 from the arc, again showing NBA range to finish with 13 points. And McBee just continues to roll, going 4 of 6 from three tonight to push his season total to 21 of 46, 45.6%. McBee also played a ton tonight, 27 minutes to McRae's 18. And Cuonzo leaned on Tatum, and Tatum delivered: 36 minutes for the senior. Both have definitely improved their defense to stay on the floor that long.
The Vols move back within a game of .500 at 5-6, and get six days off for Christmas before welcoming The Citadel on December 29. I would point out that The Citadel is 2-9 and hasn't played within 10 points of anyone in a month...but knowing us, we'll keep it lively.
But as long as the Vols keep it lively in victory, this team will keep growing in a positive direction, and we'll keep taking the victories. This was a strong team finish a day after great news with Jarnell Stokes, and the Vols head to the holiday moving forward together.