Tennessee stayed right with Kansas on Friday night in Brooklyn, even looking like the better team for a good chunk of the night. They were able to hold a small lead for the majority of the second half, finding a way to punch back every time they were hit in the mouth — until Grant Williams fouled out.
The Vols’ star forward was brilliant again on Friday. Tennessee’s offense ran through him, despite plenty of attention and double teams. Williams was able to put up 18 points, but more importantly, Grant made the right plays when double-teamed. He racked up six assists, which ended up leading the team.
When Williams left the floor, the game changed. You pretty much knew what was coming in the overtime period without him on the floor.
“Again, if they do what we practice,” Barnes said after the game. “We didn’t do one thing — what we wanted to do — in terms of when we run our initial hits, getting into our flow game. Our guards were just shooting it, as opposed to getting the movement that we wanted to get to the glass more.”
The offense then shifted towards Admiral Schofield, who was in the midst of a pretty rough shooting night. To Admiral’s credit, he found a little something late, but it was far from being enough to top a loaded team like Kansas.
Without Grant on the floor, Tennessee’s offense essentially become iso-ball with Admiral. Jordan Bone wasn’t able to step up and create much late, despite playing a great game overall. Lamonte Turner couldn’t replicate his first half success, while Jordan Bowden was nowhere to be found offensively.
“Admiral struggled early,” Barnes said. “But again, we just didn’t get the motion movement out of our flow game that we wanted. And that’s the most disappointing thing.”
It shouldn’t just fall on Schofield. Turner is a guy that has stepped up in big spot for the Vols, but he’s probably not totally back into game shape just yet coming off of an injury. That will change once conference play rolls around. Bone has the ability to step up, but we haven’t really seen the offense run through him just yet.
With the brand of basketball that Grant plays with, this is going to happen. It’s going to happen more than once this year. Tennessee is going to have to figure out who they are without him on the floor.
The good news here is that Tennessee had every chance to go win this game. They absolutely belonged on that floor and will benefit from a game like this. Kansas just proved to be a little deeper when it mattered the most.