On Saturday, the Tennessee basketball team completed an 80-61 domination of the Kansas Jayhawks. This game, initially billed at the beginning of the season as a colossal matchup between titans, ended up leaving much to be desired from a competitiveness standpoint.
When we first saw this game on the docket, fans on both sides were likely ecstatic to see what could result on January 30. But in the preceding weeks leading up to the game, neither team was showing much of what was expected of them.
Kansas, the 15th ranked team in the nation, came into Thompson Boling Arena with an 11-5 record, having lost three consecutive games before knocking off TCU. 18th ranked Tennessee came in with an 11-3 record, scuffling recently against Missouri and Florida before narrowly defeating Mississippi State.
With the shuffling of the football program, many fans expressed some sense of worry about the basketball program’s trendline, too. On Saturday night, Rick Barnes and his group of players reminded us what the team can be capable of, particularly when the offense is flowing.
Tennessee shot over 50 percent from the field (52.8%), while also knocking down an excellent 61.5 percent from three. That’s before we even acknowledge the fact that the team only missed one free throw (16-17, 94.1%). Four players scored in double digits, including John Fulkerson’s 11, Yves Pons’ 17, Jaden Springer’s 13, and Victory Bailey, Jr.’s 11. Another important distinction to mark is how Tennessee outrebounded the Jayhawks by a wide margin, out boarding the opposition 38 to 23.
Kansas played a more effective second half than its first, but they were still outscored, and it was too little, too late. At the half, Tennessee was leading 40-26, a lead they’d never relinquish; they went on to outscore Kansas 40-35 in the second half.
Tennessee, now 12-3, will shift its focus back to conference play, an area in which they’ve recently struggled. On February 2nd, the squad will be on the road to take on Ole Miss before shipping up to Lexington for a rivalry matchup against a 5-10 Kentucky team. The Wildcats canceled their game against Texas for health concerns, but I would assume the status of the team’s games will be resolved before the matchup with Tennessee.
With eight games remaining on the schedule, the end of the regular season is in sight. It will be interesting to see if Tennessee can continue to improve upon their effort against Kansas and power through the rest of the conference schedule.