Despite the fact that Tennessee was a (+16) point favorite heading into Tuesday night’s matchup with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, it was unclear as to how the game would actually play out.
The Vols overcame a very sluggish start, poor free throw shooting, and multiple injuries to notch their third win of the season.
The Yellow Jackets came out and scored on their first possession of the game, but Tennessee quickly got things back on track. A physical defense helped them build a 7-0 run before a three-pointer from Moses Wright ended the streak and pulled Georgia Tech within a bucket.
The score was 7-5, but that didn’t phase Admiral Schofield as he nailed a three to put the Vols back up by five.
Sloppy play plagued both teams soon after. Georgia Tech turned the ball over four times in a row at one point and the Vols shot just 2/5 from the free throw stripe before hitting four consecutive free throws.
Both teams would turn the ball over a combined 15 times in the first half. It was almost an even split, the Vols had eight and the Yellow Jackets had the remaining seven, obviously.
The Yellow Jackets were also having trouble with UT’s athleticism and physicality early on, racking up nine fouls in the first nine and a half minutes of play. But the Vols couldn’t take full advantage of their extra chances at the foul line. They shot 66% during the first 20 minutes, missing six free throws in the first half.
The Vols eventually pulled out to a 27-15 lead, but Tech hung tough and went on a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 30-25.
Tennessee was able to add a few more points to the total, but Schofield put an exclamation point on an otherwise tepid first half after blocking Curtis Haywood II’s three-point attempt right before time expired.
The lead was 33-25 at halftime and Grant Williams led the way with 13 points, but the next three scorers for the Vols totaled 14 points. Yves Pons had 3 fouls and Georgia Tech record six steals.
Tech’s bench also held a huge advantage after outscoring Tennessee’s 13-4.
If Tennessee wanted to win this game, this was not the right way to go about it.
The Vols needed to play better defense, find more offense, and make more free throws. Could head coach Rick Barnes whip them into shape?
It was dicey early on. Tennessee had already committed two turnovers in the first couple of minutes despite extending the lead to 37-27.
But Williams continued to put the team on his back. A tough, physical offensive rebound led to a big basket that pushed the lead back to 12, 39-27.
A scary moment came at around 15:20 when Schofield had his right ankle stepped on. He hobbled off the court in what looked to be some pretty severe pain.
It turned out to be no big deal though. A timeout was called and he was right back on the court.
Georgia Tech missed ten straight shots at one point, but Tennessee wasn’t doing much on offense themselves, either. The defense continued to shine, however, and John Fulkerson made sure the Yellow Jackets knew what they were dealing after throwing down a sick block on Moses Wright.
Few things get this building going more than a John Fulkerson block.— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) November 14, 2018
Tech’s dry spell had extended to over ten minutes without a shot and twelve missed shots in a row until Jose Alvarado’s three finally put an end to the misery. The Vols now led 42-33 with 12:10 to go.
Another scary injury moment occurred, but this time it was with Jordan Bone. He took a hard fall on his way to the basket, but came in a few plays later and nailed a jumper to push the Vols’ lead back to double-digits, 47-37.
Alvarado later went down with what looked to be an ankle injury and had to leave temporarily.
A key series gave Tennessee their largest lead of the game. Tech’s Brandon Alston was called for a flagrant foul on a hold underneath the basket, allowing Tennessee two free throw attempts and an extra possession.
Grant Williams was able to hit one of the free throws and added two more points on a beautiful drive to the basket. The Vols now led 52-37 and they looked to have things rolling with under eight minutes to play.
The good news kept coming after Alvarado fouled out with a little over five minutes left. At this point, the Yellow Jackets were down 56-43 and they seemed to be fading from the spotlight.
But to their credit, they were able to force the Vols in a make-it-to-win-it situation with just a little over a minute and a half to play. They had cut the lead down to eight - 59-51 - and the Vols needed a big play.
Well, who else would you expect but none other than Mr. Grant. Williams.
He drove right through the Yellow Jacket defense and made a gorgeous layup to put the Vols back up by ten points and essentially seal the deal.
Tennessee would go on to win the game, 66-53, on a night where they shot just 39.6% from the floor and 63.2% from the foul line. Tech’s bench outscored the Vols’ bench by a 34-4 margin. Tennessee did outrebound GT 44-37 and they forced 14 turnovers.
They are now 3-0 on the season and will play Louisville next Wednesday, November 21st in Brooklyn, New York. Tip-off is set for 5PM EST.