The Vols won their fourth straight tonight, pushing their record back above .500 at 7-6 with a thirteen point win over Chattanooga. The story tonight for both teams was the three ball: the Mocs hit 11 of 26 (42.3%), which kept them in the game and never let the Vols really run away with it. But though the Vols weren't as efficient, they overwhelmed Chattanooga with attempts: 13 of 39 from the arc, the second most attempts in school history. Tennessee forced a dozen turnovers and grabbed a dozen offensive rebounds, which led to thirteen additional shot attempts and plenty of chances.
Skylar McBee cashed in on those chances early, knocking down five threes in the first half. The Stache is now 30 of 65 (46.1%) on the year, and 13 of 25 in the last three games. Trae Golden rediscovered his touch from the three point line, hitting four of his own. But Golden was also much quicker getting the ball up the floor after rebounds, and much more successful at the rim. As a result, Golden finishes with 29 points in 36 minutes; he was much more the scorer than the distributor tonight, and it'll be interesting to see how those roles balance themselves the rest of the way.
Because the rest of the way starts now.
The Vols travel to Memphis for a rematch in 48 hours, then open SEC play on Saturday morning against #13 Florida. And that's just the beginning: the Vols will play nine games in twenty-seven days, including four ranked opponents (five if you count Kentucky twice), Memphis, and a fully armed and operational Vanderbilt. It's bound to be educational.
The Vols will need all of the momentum they continued to build tonight. Tennessee played tough every night but finished the easy part at 7-6. While there's nothing easy about Duke, Memphis, Pittsburgh, or the better mid-majors UT faced, there was plenty of time between most games. But now college basketball becomes a grind, with every game important and every win precious. We've learned a few things about Cuonzo Martin's first team, but we're getting ready to learn a lot more.
So it's one at a time to Memphis, because the next part is too daunting to be faced any other way. The Vols have found their feet again after losses to Oakland, Austin Peay, and Charleston. Now we'll see if they can stand and fight against their in-state rival and the best of the SEC.