Sometimes in life the simplest formula for success is the easiest one.
On the first day of March Madness, the Vols got back to the basics - smothering defense, good ball movement, and collective scoring - in order to win their first NCAA Tournament game in four years. Tennessee held the Wright State Raiders to a season-low 47 points, while getting double-digit efforts from the trio of Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, and Lamonte Turner.
Turner led the team in scoring with 19 points and recorded a career-high nine assists. He was just 4-11 from the floor, but went 9-10 from the stripe, where he has excelled all year.
Schofield had a double-double while Williams pitched in 14 points on 60% shooting. He was just one rebound away from a double-double himself.
Things didn’t start off so hot for the Vols, however, as they found themselves in an offensive funk early on in the game. UT didn’t score a single point on their first seven offensive possessions and missed their first six shots. It wasn’t until Schofield drained one from downtown at the 16:38 mark to give the Vols their first lead of the game, 3-2.
The Raiders immediately returned fire, banking in a shot off an offensive rebound to go back up, 4-3. Unfortunately for the Raiders, that would be the last time they experienced a lead - and a realistic shot at winning - for the rest of the game.
The Vols began to turn up the tempo on defense, thus resulting in plenty of missed shots for the Raiders, which Tennessee used mightily to their advantage.
“(The defense), it set the tempo. I think we kind of struggled on offense there - we couldn’t get anything going - but our defense kept us in the game and we were able to kinda pull away (from them) in the second half.” - Lamonte Turner.
Tennessee held the Raiders scoreless for six minutes that included a 0/9 shooting stretch in the first half, resulting in 34-23 lead at halftime.
The Raiders shot just 32% from the floor - including 10% from downtown. Tennessee nearly played a perfect half despite turning the ball over seven times.
Wright State simply couldn’t handle Tennessee’s length and physicality. The presence of Schofield and junior forward Kyle Alexander prevented all kinds of mismatches and problems for the team out of Dayton, Ohio.
“Kyle Alexander was a problem for them.” - Turner.
The second half wasn’t much different for the Raiders offensively, either. Tennessee came out and compiled a 14-4 run in the first five minutes to stretch the lead all the way out to 21, 48-27.
But even though the Vols absolutely crushed the Raiders with their defensive performance, Schofield and co. still weren’t satisfied.
“Towards the end of the game, we had spurts where we didn’t do our job, we kind of let up on defense. So, we gotta tighten down in that aspect.” - Admiral Schofield.
Tennessee only allowed nine made shots in the second half, after allowing just ten in the first. They held the Raiders to 31% shooting - including 18% from three-point range - on the day. Wright State averages around 44% and 34% on the year, respectively.
That was pretty much the end of the Raiders season as the Vols would go on to cruise the rest of the way to a final score of 73-47. The win puts the Vols at 26-8 on the season and drops Wright State to 25-10.
Tennessee looks to be in good shape and will face off against the winner of the Miami/Loyola-Chicago game. Tip off is currently TBA.
Stats from the game:
- After today’s win, the Vols are now 24-3 on the season when tied or leading at halftime.
- Admiral Schofield finished with his second straight double-double.
- The 26-point victory is the second largest margin of victory in a NCAA Tournament win for Tennessee. The largest margin of victory is a 35-point victory over #12 Long Beach State back in 2007 under Bruce Pearl.
- The Vols continue to struggle with allowing offensive rebounds to their opponent as today’s game marks the fifth straight game in which the opponent has recorded at least ten or more offensive rebounds.