Tennessee played from behind for much of the second half, but absolutely shut down TSU in the final minutes of the game to pull away in the last tune-up before the Vols start conference play. A game Tigers squad built leads of 47-40 and 57-51 as TSU tried to continue it's hot start, but the Vols out-rebounded, out-shot, and out-fought their opponents over the last three minutes of the ball game.
Kevin Punter stuffed the stat sheet against Tennessee State, finishing with 23 points on 7-10 shooting from the field, making four three-pointers, and hitting 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, Derek Mostella came off the bench to play Robin to Punter's Batman. Mostella chipped in another 16 with a stellar shooting percentage on a night where the Vols' bench nearly outscored their starters. With no other Tennessee players in double digits, the Vols needed every single point from Punter and Mostella. However, Swiss Army Vol Armani Moore continued to do the dirty work, hustling on the boards and on defense to give his team a chance to win.
Overall, this team is about where we thought they might be going into the conference season: lacking talent but not heart, struggling to figure out how a bunch of new guys mesh with the players already on campus. Tonight the Vols were bailed out by some timely shooting and good defense after a Tennessee timeout at the 3:05 minute mark. We'll see whether or not learning on the fly turns into a team that flies together.