Tennessee basketball won Wednesday night against Vanderbilt, but it just barely feels like a win. With more negatives than positives coming out of the game for the Vols, there is one phrase that comes to mind- the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Good: Maturity of Grant Williams
Grant Williams played one of the best games we’ve ever seen from a Vol. Not only did he score 43 points, but he didn’t hit a single three pointer. When was the last time that happened? Probably the 80’s.
What sticks out more so than the scoring was Williams’ maturity and leadership. We’ve seen Williams dominate games before, but this is the first time this season where Williams has essentially allowed his team to hop on his back and ride him to victory.
In tight games earlier in the season, especially at Florida and Alabama, Williams has displayed poor body language that had a trickle-down effect on the rest of his teammates.
That wasn’t the case Wednesday night.
When Williams grabbed his teammates following a late-game scuffle and calmed down the storm, it showed a lot of growth in a short time from the reigning SEC player of the year. It also set Tennessee back on track. A track that would eventually lead to a win.
Grant Williams on the scuffle that Jordan Bone got in: I told him we need to walk out of here and be mature. That’s what we learned from the Florida game. I told the guys no flashing of the jersey anymore.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) January 24, 2019
Obviously the Vols wouldn’t have won without the scoring ability of Grant Williams, but without his growth as a leader, his point total wouldn’t have mattered. #1 Tennessee would have fallen.
The Bad: Immaturity from Schofield
Everyone has a bad shooting night. It’s part of basketball. But when things aren’t going your way, it is on the struggling player to realize it just isn’t his night. Admiral Schofield can’t admit when it just isn’t his night yet.
Schofield allows a bad shooting first half to set him back mentally and cause him to force errors that wouldn’t happen otherwise. He did it against Alabama on Saturday and again against Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
Admiral Schofield is being berated by Vandy students for an air ball he had very very early in this one.
— Blake Von Hagen (@blake_vonhagen) January 24, 2019
Schofield’s first sign of mental struggles was the double technical and his mental lapses really came into focus with a bonehead turnover midway through the second half. Plays like this continued with two rushed shots with defenders nearby at the 8-minute mark and again with 1:22 remaining. Throughout this stretch, Schofield also gave up some drives to the basket due to poor defense as well.
Admiral Schofield can’t buy a bucket. 1-for-6 today, and he’s 5-for-23 in the #Vols last two games.
— Troy Provost-Heron (@Troy_Provost) January 24, 2019
On the bright side, we know Schofield is the type of player that will never be outworked. Rick Barnes highlighted this after the game saying he wouldn’t be surprised if Schofield went to the gym and got some shots up once the team arrived back in Knoxville in the early a.m. hours.
The Ugly: Continued Defensive Struggles
Rick Barnes spent the vast majority of his Saturday press conference talking about how displeased he is with the way his team has been playing defense. In his eyes, his team is not fully committed and locked in on that side of the floor.
Wednesday night, Tennessee would have a handful of possessions where they played solid defense followed by a string of possessions where they would get beat on a pick and roll or embarrassed by a back-door cut. This showed that the Vols can play defense, it is just a matter of if they want to.
Defensive inconsistency is something that Barnes and company stressed in the press conference on Saturday.
Tonight’s first half has been and illustration of that. #Vols started well defensively, but since then has given up some easy back door cuts and a couple big 3’s.
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) January 24, 2019
Last night, they didn’t really want to play defense until they realized they could actually lose.
As the number one team in the country, you are held to a higher standard than all the rest. One of those standards is playing a full game of solid, team defense. It’s the mark of a true championship team.
Tennessee has not put together a great defensive outing in their last two appearances. Luckily, they still have plenty of time to figure it out.
Featured Image: Jim Brown- USA Today