Tennessee mocked the Mocs Monday night, sliding past Chattanooga 58-46. Here are three things.
The Vols scored 28 points in the first half and took a 10-point lead into the break. It wasn’t overly pretty, but they shot 44 percent from the field and hit four of the 11 3-pointers they attempted. Jordan Bowden led the first-half charge with 11 points on eight shots, though he went just 1-3 from behind the 3-point line.
If the first half wasn’t “overly pretty,” then the second half was, um, under-ly pretty. . . ? Or overly ugly? Or?
OK, so it was like when you were a kid and you went trick-or-treating. That’s good and fun. But the second half was the same kind of letdown you felt when some weirdo on your street — the one who definitely ironed his or her jeans, kept mounds of mothballs in the closets and routinely watered the plastic house plants — slid a toothbrush in your bag when you weren’t looking. Then that weirdo also took all of your candy and made you watch 20 minutes of shitty basketball.
Tennessee made just seven baskets in the second half against the Mocs. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. We could use our hands to count the buckets the Vols made and still have enough spare digits to flip a bird and throw up a peace sign. Sure, they scored 30 points, two more than they scored in the first half, but 15 of those points came from the free throw line.
The last part of that quote, the part about not finishing cuts, sounds a bit like coach was questioning the team’s effort. That’s pretty rare. One might say the Vols were out of sync or they weren’t shooting well or whatever, but it’s not often you hear Barnes — or anybody — say the team wasn’t playing hard. Typically, for Barnes’s teams, effort isn’t an à la carte side dish; it’s the water the server brings to the table whether you asked for it or not.
“We were sloppy on the offense,” Barnes said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Chattanooga because I think they’re really well coached, and he’s done a good job building up the kind of program he wants. We were just really sloppy. We were throwing the ball to throw it, and we weren’t playing with any purpose.”
The team’s previous low for made field goals in a half was 10 in the second half against Washington. Free throws buoyed the scoring in that half just as they did during the second half against Chattanooga. So, if we’re looking for a bright side (HINT: WE ARE), it’s a net positive that the team is sealing victories at the free throw line because there will be plenty more close-ish games and these experiences will prove valuable.
JOHN FULKERSON SOUNDS WEIRD AND HE’S A MODEL (of consistency)
John Fulkerson was the post-game interview featured on the SEC Network’s broadcast. Feel free to judge me, but this was the first time I’d heard Fulkerson’s voice. Or, at least, it’s the first time I remember hearing it. I’m not sure what I expected, but whatever it was is different than what I heard.
Audio: John Fulkerson— 99.1 The Sports Animal (@SportsRadioWNML) November 26, 2019
The high-energy forward discussed a conversation with Rick Barnes that upset his coach, but led to his improvemnent, his worry-free style scrambling for loose balls and much more in the UTC postgame.https://t.co/QC1IEBM0f4
I’m not saying what I heard was bad. Really, it was similar to his play and mostly just a misalignment to my prior assumptions.
When people see his gangily frame running the court, I think it’s assumed he’s playing because he’s 6-foot-8 and has five fouls to use. Those things aren’t wrong, but they do incorrectly narrow the scope of his value.
In the scrum that was Tennessee’s second half against Chattanooga, Fulkerson made more field goals (four) than the rest of the team combined (three). He’s now scored 10 or more points four times in five games with a nine-point effort against Murray State as the lone single-digit output. (POINT OF REFERENCE: He scored in double figures two times last season in 36 games.) He’s shooting 75 percent from the field, is second on the team in rebounds per game (6.5) and tied for second with 2.4 combined blocks/ steals. The Vols were at their best offensively last season when they played through the post, and Fulkerson becoming a consistent, reliable threat to score in the paint would help alleviate some of the pressure on Bowden and Turner to score the bulk of the team’s points.
JALEN JOHNSON IS MCDONALD’S ICE CREAM
Jalen Johnson played 10 minutes, attempted zero shots and thereby scored zero points against Chattanooga Monday night. Johnson played 10 minutes, attempted three shots (all 3-pointers) and scored zero points against Alabama State. Johnson played six minutes, attempted one shot and scored zero points against Washington.
Alabama State and Chattanooga are two of the weaker opponents on Tennessee’s schedule, so Johnson’s inability to 1) get on the floor and 2) do anything productive with his playing time against those teams is concerning.
This is going to sound weird, but stay with me here. McDonald’s is somewhat infamous for their ice cream. First off, it’s absolutely delicious and the texture is just wonderful. But, when you Google “McDonald’s ice cream,” one of the first, most common queries is “Why is the McDonald’s ice cream machine always broken?” Chances are, if you’ve gone to get some soft-serve from McDonald’s, at some point they’ve told you the machine was down. (Apparently, the machines take a long time — up to four hours — to clean and sufficiently sanitize, so it’s likely that employees start the process early in the evening so they’re not waiting around to finish the machine after the store closes.)
Jalen Johnson is McDonald’s ice cream. He’s gifted offensively — so much that Grant Williams called him “one of the most talented guys on the team,” last year. He’s tall and athletic and has a smooth, fluid jump shot. When you watch him in warm-ups or shoot-around, he looks like he should be scoring the ball literally anyway and anytime he wants. But what good are those tantalizing attributes if they don’t show up when it counts?
He’s never really been a good defender, despite having the athletic gifts needed to lock somebody down. That’s probably a lot of the problem — if you don’t play defense for Barnes you just don’t play period. Johnson is still a junior, and there’s plenty of season left for the metaphorical lights to come on, but with the talented signing class coming in for next season, Johnson’s window to becoming an integral contributor is getting smaller and smaller.