Tennessee followed up a gutty win at Kentucky with an absolutely abysmal effort on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. Alabama controlled this one from the opening tip, taking advantage of a Tennessee team that frankly didn’t look all that interested.
As you can imagine, Rick Barnes was less than pleased with their effort.
“With this group, I didn’t think that we could be that bad,” Barnes began. “One player had eight dunks. Look at what they did in the paint. Defensively, that’s as bad as we’ve played all year.”
Alabama outscored Tennessee in the paint 50-18. We knew going in that the Tide’s length would be an issue, but an overall lack of effort on the defensive end doomed the Volunteers from the start.
“We didn’t compete,” Barnes said. “We didn’t compete at all. Far and away the worst game that we’ve played. Our help defense was really, really poor to start the game. We were getting beat on back cuts, we gave up drives to the basket. So when those things are happening, you look back at your team and you say, hey we’re not engaged.”
Barnes continued, calling out junior forward Kyle Alexander specifically.
“Kyle Alexander might have played as bad of a game he’s played since his first game as a freshman. That’s what he looked like tonight. A guy that was totally lost. Not competitive. We haven’t seen that from him in a while.”
Alexander finished with two points and four rebounds in just 14 minutes of play. It was far from just his fault, however.
“Guys that you count on playing a lot — Jordan Bowden getting back cut, Grant Williams calling out defensive covers and then he didn’t do his job. Little things like that. It’s a combination of a lot of things. I just want five guys that will at least try to compete.”
The difference in intensity levels was what stood out through the entirety of this one. Tennessee just wasn’t engaged defensively, handing out easy looks to the basket and getting beat up down low.
It was a predicable letdown spot for the Vols after a huge win on Tuesday. That idea was floated to Barnes after the game and he didn’t rule it out.
“If there was, that’s disappointing. We’re into February now. To me, an emotional letdown is being overconfident. If it was an emotional letdown, it was because of us being immature. I’m baffled, to be honest.”
“We got what we deserved,” Barnes finished.
Unfortunately, he’s correct. Tennessee wasn’t ready to play today and they were beaten like a drum. Maybe the No. 1 seed talk got to their head. Maybe they were still on their high from winning at Rupp Arena.
The good news is that it’s only February 10th. The schedule lightens up down the stretch and Tennessee has another great opportunity to rip off several in a row. I’m sure Barnes can use this as a teaching moment going forward, just in case he feels like his team is getting overconfident again, as he described.
Burn the tape.— RockyTopTalk (@RockyTopTalk) February 11, 2018
Bottomline: Vols were due for one of these. It's February 10th and Tennessee is still in great shape. Wake up call might not be the worst thing here.
If you’re thinking about jumping off the ledge on this team, don’t. I think they have shown up in enough big spots to get a pass here, but right now, this one stings.
Tennessee has a chance to right the ship against a struggling South Carolina team in Knoxville on Tuesday night.