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Vols hoops game RECAP: Slow start too much to overcome as Tennessee falls to North Carolina 100-92

Tale of two halves

Despite shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and getting incredible offensive performances from Dalton Knecht and Josiah Jordan-James, Tennessee fell to North Carolina 100—92 in the Dean Dome in what was ultimately a “too little too late” performance from the Volunteers.

Tennessee has now dropped three straight games, and remains winless against ranked opponents on the road over the last five seasons — their last such win coming on February 6, 2018 against 24 Kentucky.

In addition to 37 from Knecht and 20 Jordan-James, Tennessee got 13 points from Jonas Aidoo on 5-7 shooting, including a nice mid range jump shot in the second half.

The real takeaway from this game is that it was indeed a tale of two halves — the first half being what Rick Barnes called “the worst half of basketball Tennessee has played since he’s been there.” And what a half it was. Tennessee committed 10 turnovers and allowed North Carolina to shoot nearly 60% from the field, 50% from three, and collect five offensive rebounds. North Carolina also shot a perfect 16-16 from free throw line. The Vols went into halftime trailing 61-39.

The second half, however, saw Tennessee looking like a Top 5 team in the country. Led by a 22-point performance from Dalton Knecht, Tennessee shot over 60 percent from the field outscored North Carolina 53-39, and cut what was once a 24-point-deficit to six inside the final five minutes of the game. Unfortunately, the wind was taken out of Tennessee’s sails when Knecht had to leave the game with an ankle injury after stepping on a North Carolina player’s foot trying to drive to the basket. The severity of the injury is still TBD.

For the third straight game, Tennessee had no answer for their opponents starting big man — as Armando Bacot tallied a 22 point, 11 rebound double-double despite being in foul trouble for a good bit of the second half.

For North Carolina tonight, they were led by senior point guard RJ Davis who had 27 points on 47 percent shooting. The Tarheels finished the game with four players in double figures, three scoring 20+ points.

Jordan Gainey looked dreadful once again. He finds a way to get more open looks than anyone on this team and still managed to shoot 5-15 from the field and just 1-9 from three including an airball in the final meaningful possession for Tennessee. Considering his defensive skillset isn’t anything to write home about, this is a kid that needs to figure it out, and figure out fast.

Senior guard Santiago Vescovi’s tough season continues — he scored 0 points today and had three turnovers and four fouls. It’s tough to overcome poor performances from Gainey offensively, but to get quite literally nothing from your preseason first-team all-SEC guard is damn near insurmountable. With Tobe Awaka and Freddie Dilione both missing the game due to injuries, Tennessee’s bench continued to be a dearth offensively.

With this loss to North Carolina, I’m expecting at least a five spot drop for the Vols in next week’s AP poll. Tennessee heads back to Knoxville for the first time in nearly a month for a get right game against 6-1 George Mason on Tuesday, December 5.

If you couldn’t catch tonight’s game, you can find the full box score here.