Talk about a “team win”.
The Tennessee Volunteers came into FedEx Forum expecting a fight from the Memphis Tigers and boy, did they receive one.
UT had to continuously fight off a talented Tigers team that made them earn it all game long. It took a complete team effort as the Tigers made the Vols take 47 free throw shots. Tennessee hit 39 of them, with six different players taking a trip to the line.
Admiral Schofield led the team in scoring again with 29 points and even though they had to battle through foul trouble again, Tennessee found a way to win.
Tennessee immediately scored on the first possession when Tennessee’s Grant Williams found Kyle Alexander wide open after the tip-off for an easy dunk to make it 2-0, Vols.
Memphis was able to make a couple of shots to make the score 7-5 a few possessions later, but the Vols were perfect offensively. The end result was an 8-0 run that gave Tennessee a 15-5 lead in the first five minutes of the game.
Tennessee was perfect during that run before Schofield missed a three-point shot. They went 5/5 from the floor, hit all three of their three-point attempts, and made both free throws during the first four and a half minutes of the game.
The 8-0 run was pushed to 12-0, but the Tigers’ Kyvon Davenport ended it with a three-point shot to make the game 19-8. It was Memphis’ first made field goal in their previous ten attempts.
Sloppy play and foul trouble from the Vols helped the Tigers go on a 9-2 run and all of a sudden, Tennessee’s lead went from 23-10 to 25-19. A big-time basket plus a foul to finish off a three-point play from the Vols’ Williams helped regain control of the game.
It remained a six point game until Williams hit another shot down low and proceeded to the free throw line. He nailed the attempt and the score was now 31-22 in favor of Tennessee.
Early foul trouble put Rick Barnes in a situation where he was forced to play zone defense and Memphis was able to find the holes. Fortunately for Tennessee, they are good enough at both ends of the court to overcome the defensive disadvantage.
An intense series from the Vols’ Alexander keyed a significant run that pushed the lead back to 13 for Tennessee. First, he blocked a Raynere Thorton three-point attempt form the corner, which Tennessee was able to recover. Then, he nailed a wide-open three-point shot from the top of the key. The final and third act saw him draw a charge that led to a Jordan Bowden dunk. The exhausting series pushed Tennessee’s lead to 37-24 and the team in orange was beginning to take over.
Bowden and Schofield each hit a three a few plays later and at this point the score was 43-25 with a little under four minutes left in the first half. Memphis had to find a way to slow down the Vols.
The Tigers were able to accomplish that goal - slightly. Tennessee went into halftime with a 50-35 lead after Antwann Jones hit a layup with just seconds left on the clock.
It was a very efficient first half offensively for Tennessee. The team shot over 51% from the field, hit 43% of their three-point attempts, and were 14-17 (82%) from the charity stripe.
Foul trouble (11) and turnovers (9) are what kept the lead from reaching the 20s.
Tennessee entered the second half with four players with multiple fouls. The trio of Jordan Bone, Williams, and Alexander had two each, while Yves Pons had three. Memphis was beginning to sweat it as well, with two players accruing three personals and three others notching two in the first half.
Memphis shot just 27% from the field and were 2-14 (14.3%) from three. They did make 13-16 of their free throws, however, and were able to grab 11 offensive boards.
The plan was simple for Tennessee: clean up the sloppiness and continue to pound the ball inside.
Well, the plan didn’t get off to a good start. Kyle Alexander recorded his third foul on the opening possession of the second half. Freshman Alex Lomax then drove right down the court and hit the layup to make it a 50-37 game.
The foul trouble continued for Memphis too after Thorton picked up his fourth foul a couple of plays later.
Memphis began an awesome back-and-forth run between both teams that resulted in six straight possessions where at least two points were scored on each possession. Grant Williams and Jeremiah Martin hit back-to-back threes to send the crowd into a frenzy, but the Vols still led 59-46 with around 15:51 left to play.
More foul trouble ensued for the Vols after Williams picked up his third of the game at the 15:00 mark. The lead was just 61-48 at this point. If this continued, Tennessee was about to find themselves in big trouble.
And sure enough, they eventually did.
Insane hustle and second effort by the Tigers led them on an 11-2 run. During that sequence, Memphis went 5/9 from the field and forced three Volunteer turnovers.
The Tigers pulled within seven, 63-56, before Admiral Schofield was fouled as he made a layup under the basket. He completed the three-point play and the Vols lead was back to ten, 66-56.
Tennessee began to regain some momentum right after Schofield’s three-point play. Alexander drew another offensive charge and the Vols capitalized off another foul on Schofield. He made both his free throws and pushed the lead to 68-56 with barley over ten minutes to play in the game.
Back-to-back threes from Jalen Johnson and Schofield put the Vols up 76-62, but the fouls kept coming and kept giving Memphis life.
Williams and Alexander would pick up their fourth fouls with a little over eight minutes to play. Memphis had narrowed the lead to 76-65 at this point and the Vols had three players with four fouls.
It was getting tight and so were the refs. Every single call was being made and no player was safe from their wrath.
Memphis continued to bring the intensity, especially Davenport. He scored 18 straight points in the second half and was the only reason Memphis had any business sticking around in the game.
UT’s athleticism eventually began to break through and the Tigers couldn’t hold on. The fouls began to pile up and a ten point deficit was now a 91-76 score with 3:55 left to play.
Tennessee held on the rest of the way and ended up with a 102-92 win. The points are a new season-high, as well as the 39 made free throws and the 46 attempts.
Tennessee is now (8-1) on the season. They play Samford at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday, December 19 at 7PM EST.