NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After winning their first game of the season, the 11th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers traveled to Nashville for a matchup with the Colorado Buffaloes on Sunday afternoon.
Although this was technically a neutral site matchup, the arena was decked out in orange and it sounded like a Tennessee home game. Despite this, the Vols were not able to capitalize on the energy and fell 78-66.
The first quarter got off to an interesting start, as both teams converted on multiple and-one opportunities. It was a back-and-forth affair during the early part of the game, but both teams struggled to find a rhythm and flow to the game due to the number of turnovers and fouls.
However, Tennessee began to take control of the game thanks to their bench, specifically Josiah-Jordan James and Tyreke Key. The seniors combined for 21 of Tennessee’s 34 points in the first half and settled the Vols after an up-and-down start.
The Vols can also thank their defense for getting out to an early lead. They forced 11 turnovers in the first half, but they also had nine of their own which allowed Colorado to stay in the game. For the Buffaloes, it was KJ Simpson who led Colorado with 8 points and kept them within reach.
Both teams shot the ball poorly from the field, Colorado at 35% and Tennessee at just 23%. However, the Vols were +12 in free throw makes at the half and it was the difference in the game. Going into the break, the Vols held a 34-32 lead in Nashville.
To start the second half, Colorado came out on fire and took the lead. Two three-pointers from Julian Hammond III and Jalen Gabbidon gave the Buffaloes their first lead since 9-7. Tennessee’s shooting woes continued as they struggled to score both inside and out. With 8 minutes left in the game, the Buffaloes had built a 7-point lead, their largest of the game.
Down the stretch of the game, the Vols struggled to get stops, especially on KJ Simpson who finished with 23 points. On the offensive end, the shooting continued to be abysmal. For the game, they shot 10-37 from the three and made just six 2-point field goals as well. Outside of a 15-point performance on 5-11 shooting for Josiah-Jordan James, the Vols’ offense was extremely underwhelming.
Going forward, there is a lot to fix for the Vols especially offensively. The shot selection was not necessarily bad, but it was definitely unbalanced. Tennessee is a three-point shooting team now, but that does not mean they can abandon all other ways to score the ball.
The Vols scored just 10 points in the paint and attempted very few shots from mid-range, it was also clear they miss Kennedy Chandler and his ability to create offensive opportunities off the dribble. Through 2 games, no Tennessee player has shown the ability to put the ball on the floor and create those same shots. There’s still a long season ahead, but it’s clear that the Vols today were far from where they want to be this season.
The Vols will head back to Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday to try and bounce back against Florida Gulf Coast. Tip-off at 7:00 p.m. ET on the SEC Network+.