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Vols Fold like a Cheap Table, lose to Ole Miss 52-50


NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Vol fans after the Florida loss: That was the worst loss of the year!

Tennessee basketball in the second half against Ole Miss: Hold our beer.

UT committed 16 turnovers, 17 fouls, hit just five shots in the second half and missed nine of the final 10 shots it attempted en route to a two-point loss against Mississippi Tuesday night.

If you step back and look at the big picture of the first half, it seemed like the Vols actually played a decent initial 20 minutes. They gave the ball up just five times and shot 44 percent from the field while hitting six of the 12 three-point shots they attempted. But nearly all that damage was done in the first half of the first half. Josiah-Jordan James hit one 3-point shot at the 11:03 mark and another at the 10:23 mark, but UT turned the ball over four times and scored just five points after that. The Vols finished that half shooting one for their last 10.

Also, Olivier Nkamhoua got obliterated trying to block a dunk at some point in the first half, so just a warning if you watch Sports Center, avert thine gaze when it comes time for Top Plays (do people still watch Sports Center? Am I showing my age?). I applaud the young gun for making the effort — so many guys just get out of the way — but next time he might want to, I dunno, get out of the way.

Mississippi’s first half was rather cringe-y, too. They scored just five points in the game’s first five minutes, notched a .79 points-per-possession figure and went just 2-7 from 3-point range.

But the Rebels cut the lead to one point in the first 60 seconds of the second half with two free throws and a jumper from Jarkel Joiner. Both Santiago Vescovi and Yves Pons each picked up two fouls in the first four-ish minutes of the second period, and while it’s difficult to place blame anywhere specific when the offense makes five total field goals in 20 minutes of basketball, that duo, hampered by foul trouble, certainly didn’t help matters.

Ole Miss played zone defense for most of the game and went to a trapping zone in the second half that gave the Vols’ offense absolute fits. Several of Tennessee’s 11 second-half giveaways can be attributed to its total inability to counter the trap with anything even remotely resembling a reprisal.

Despite all this, Keon Johnson made a 3-point shot with 40 seconds left to pull Tennessee within two points. Ole Miss missed a shot on the other end, Tennessee got the ball back with 15 seconds left and Johnson got fouled after collecting an offensive board from a Springer miss. Johnson then missed the first of two free throws that would have tied the game and potentially sent it into overtime. It’s honestly fitting that he missed, though, considering UT had no business collecting a win from this game.

On the bright side, Pons continued his improved shooting by going 5-9 from the field and 2-3 from deep to lead the Vols in scoring with 13 points. Johnson added 11 points and was aggressive going all the way to the rim, which is encouraging even though his layups rimmed out. As a team, Tennessee was 0-3 on layups, had no dunks, scored just 10 points in the paint and, once again, had zero fast-break points.

UT travels to Kentucky Saturday at 8 PM, as long as their COVID situation is relatively and at least momentarily under control. The ‘Cats are scheduled to play Missouri Wednesday after pausing team activities for the past week.