Tennessee’s Season Flushed By Florida Atlantic

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Photo via Vol_Hoops on Twitter

NEW YORK, N.Y. – It was a long week between Tennessee’s win over Duke in Orlando to their matchup with the FAU Owls in The Sweet Sixteen hosted by Madison Square Garden. The week consisted of much discussion over the styles of these two teams with FAU’s fast offense and Tennessee’s tough defense. FAU’s head coach even joked in his press conference that his team had been studying Australian Rugby to prepare for Rick Barnes’ Vols. I’m sure that went over well in Knoxville.

These two contrasting styles were on display early as Tennessee immediately looked to Uros Plavsic down low, and the seven-foot Serbian got the scoring started. Then FAU went down the floor and hit a deep three on their first attempt. Some foul trouble bothered the Vols early despite the referees seeming to let both teams play. This was a good sign for Tennessee after a week of national media narrative calling their style of play everything from “tough” to “dirty” after a physical win over Duke.

After a 7-0 run Tennessee had built a 17-9 lead with 12 minutes to play in the first half. Tennessee was controlling the pace and playing their game. It was going to come down to their ability to avoid fouls and to win on the glass on both ends of the floor in the long term. Just after Tennessee’s run went on for just over two minutes, a more than three-minute scoring drought came for the Vols. Uros Plavsic was able to stop the bleeding and with 7:45 to go, Plavsic had eight points and Tennessee was up 21-12.

FAU was having uncharacteristic shooting struggles as they went 3-14 from three with a 37% field goal percentage with the Vols living up to their reputation on the defensive end, forcing nine turnovers in the first half and taking a 27-22 lead into the locker room. The Vols played better than being up by just five would suggest but lost the rebounding battle in the first half and that would have to change.

Santiago Vescovi started the second half strong with two threes, but FAU continued to hang around. A huge offensive rebound from Jonas Aidoo was a good sign for Tennessee and resulted in a putback that put Tennessee up five as we crossed the 13:30 mark of the second half. At 9:50, FAU took their first lead since 3-2 on an 8-0 run to make it 41-39. Tennessee had to take a timeout with 7:22 to go as FAU built their lead up to seven extending their run to 15-2. Someone was going to have to step up for the Vols if they wanted to survive.

With 3:30 to go, Tennessee cut the lead to five on a huge three from Josiah-Jordan James. The Vols were going to have to rely on their defense and veterans to give them what they needed in the last three minutes. The Vols were only able to cut it to five before FAU pulled away again and Tennessee had to foul. There would be no recovery from the knockout 15-2 run and that would be the run that killed Tennessee’s season as FAU beat Tennessee 62-55.

The loss comes down on Tennessee getting out-rebounded against a team that had no business beating them in that category and a total lack of offensive production. Losing Zeigler earlier this season was a  blow to the Vols offense that everyone already had pinned as the Achilles heel for this team, and despite that they still were in a position to win and move on to The Elite Eight, but were not able to capitalize. Tennessee fans will be eager to see who returns this offseason and what additions Tennessee makes in the transfer portal to address the offensive struggles.

FINAL:

Tennessee – 62

FAU – 55

This is what Tennessee Head Coach, Rick Barnes, and Josiah-Jordan James had to say post-game via Wes Rucker of Govols247 on Twitter:

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