Photo Credit: Andrew Ferguson/ Tennessee Athletics
By Dominic Throngard
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Vols trekked on past Wofford on Tuesday night in TBA, winning the game 82 to 61.
Half-one started pleasantly for the Vols with back-to-back Tennessee threes, but the game quickly turned into a physical contest where the Vols were outrebounded and forced to the perimeter on offense. Wofford played tough and got Knecht into foul trouble early on making him less of a factor to start, as the Terriers racked up offensive boards. Threes, however, proved to be a saving grace for the Vols who went 7-16 from beyond the arc to keep a solid lead throughout the half. Tennessee’s defense was perhaps the only other bright spot for the side in a half where Wofford made the Vols work for the win. Despite the struggles, the Vols led after half one 36-31.
The second half saw the Vols start hot as Knecht began to make his presence felt. Their hot start got choked up a little after the initial burst, however, but the team turned the jets back on after a little scoring drought and took off with the lead. Knecht’s offensive prowess helped the team create space on the floor, and the bigs began to eat with Tobe Awaka picking up free throws and mismatches left and right. Jahmai Mashack made a difference on the court as well with a strong defensive showing and a scrappy night on the offensive glass in key moments. The show kept on going as the crowd began to file out to get ready for their workdays the next morning, highlight plays included a beautiful little up-and-under action from Santi as he dropped the ball off to Aidoo for the big finish.
Lots of good to take away from the Vols in this one despite the early struggles, the team was able to remain strong defensively even in the scoring droughts and never trailed. The team got it from everywhere on the court with contributions from both transfers headlining the night, Knecht with his 18 and Jordan Gainey with 16 going 4-10 from three. Green lights were all Gainey saw when it came to his shooting performance as his ability to find space became apparent.
Zakai Zeigler saw about the same minutes as last time out and had an alright showing going 1-3 from beyond the arc. This team has plenty of guys who can get it done on both ends of the ball and it showed tonight.
After the game, head coach Rick Barnes spoke on rebounding issues for the team, “We were running in instead of blocking out… I’ve told our team that’s one of the big concerns that I have… (On Knecht) He’s gotta rebound, he’s gotta be a big part of the rebounding solution.”
Barnes also stated, “We weren’t efficient enough in transition to get those easy baskets we need, gotta do a better job of scoring around the rim… We gotta get our guards driving to the rim to score, not just to kick out.”
Gainey also spoke to the media and spoke on his role, “I really just try to have as much fun as I can.” Which quite accurately sums up a lot about this team.
The Vols will be back in action again in the Maui Invitational starting November 20th at 2:30 p.m. against Syracuse.