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Tennessee Volunteers 72, Temple Owls 88

You know, watching the Tennessee men's basketball team is weird. Different. Even if things are going poorly, you just keep thinking that at some point they're going to wake up and put together a run and at the end of the game they'll walk off the court with a win. When instead the game ends with the opponent up 88-72, the feeling is more one of bewilderment than disappointment. This early in the season anyway.

Yeah, the 4-3 Owls just beat the Tennessee Volunteers 88-72. That's not even close, and at times it wasn't even that close. Yet most of the time the game actually felt like it was a winnable game for the Vols. Why is that?

Optimism? Promise? Hustle? History?

This really wasn't a good game for the Vols. They seemed asleep early on. They weren't really moving all that well, and every shot seemed to be coming up short. As the game progressed, they started to find themselves, but every time they put together a run, they allowed Temple to put one together as well.

Tyler Smith (17), Bobby Maze (15), and Wayne Chism (10) were the only players for Tennessee in double figures, which might seem fine except for the fact that the team took a ton of shots. Smith was 6 of 16, Maze was 5-10, and Chism was 2-8. Three point shooting was even worse with the team going 6-26. Keep that stat in mind for a second.

And just where was the defense? Dionte Christmas was even better than hyped, getting 35 points, two rebounds, two assists, and three steals. He hit more three point shots than the entire Tennessee team on not quite half as many attempts. Wow. And Christmas wasn't alone. Ryan Brooks got 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Sergio Olmos put in 19 points and hauled down seven rebounds while somehow essentially preventing Tennessee from running its offense.

So yeah, not a good game for the Vols. But you get the feeling that it was more of a growing up experience for the young team than evidence of a fatal deficiency and that Bruce Pearl will find the lessons the loss presents and drum them into his players. Let's hope.

The Temple fans were chanting "overrated" at the end of the game. As of today, you'd have to say that they're right that the Vols are not a top 10 team. But will they be in March? We'll see, but admit it, you've got a feeling that they will be, don't you? That's part of the appeal of Bruce Pearl's teams.