One week ago Kevin Punter scored 36 points and the Vols beat #24 South Carolina in Knoxville. It took the Vols back above .500 and, with Alabama and TCU coming up, made you believe this team could build some momentum and fight their way toward the NIT.
One week later Tennessee has blown a pair of 14 point second half leads, and the Vols are below .500 and in a dangerous spot this season, especially with Kentucky coming next. Today the specific culprit was three point shooting: 8 of 16 in building that lead in the first half, an unbelievable 0 of 15 in the second half. As the threes kept clanging and TCU kept coming, the Vol offense got more desperate and took worse looks from the arc. And in general, there's a lack of poise with this team that shows up on both ends of the floor when things get tight.
Tennessee's first half/second half tendencies are alarmingly and outright weirdly consistent. Here's what the Vols have done in the first and second 20 minutes since SEC play began:
|at Mississippi State||+11||38||27||-6||42||48||W|
Throw the Vanderbilt game aside, a match-up nightmare for a team running mostly 6'5" and under, and there are a number of significant trends here:
- The Vols have led everyone else at halftime. Not by much a few times, but the Vols have generally been a strong first half team at home and on the road. Tennessee's offensive output has ebbed and flowed here, but their defense in the first half? Again, take out Vanderbilt, and since the beginning of SEC play the Vols are giving up an average of 29.6 points in the first half. That's really good.
- Other than Vanderbilt, the Vols have only outscored South Carolina in the second half. You shoot 9 of 12 from the three point line and 90+% at the free throw line, you'll outscore a ranked team too. But it's not just that the Vols are getting outscored in the second half, or that they're going cold.
- Tennessee's second half defense has been largely non-existent. Including Vanderbilt, the Vols are giving up 46 points in the second half on average. That's really bad. A small portion of this is teams hitting free throws when the Vols are intentionally fouling at the end of losses. But it's not a 16 point difference.