Coaches love to talk about how teams have to play defense to win games.
But No. 9 Tennessee and Arkansas fell from the list of unbeatens on Saturday because their offenses weren’t good enough.
The Volunteers and Razorbacks aim to fix that problem Wednesday night when they meet in a Southeastern Conference contest in Knoxville, Tenn.
In their 71-63 defeat to Alabama, the Volunteers (7-1, 1-1 SEC) converted only 21 of 66 field goals, including a pitiful 4 of 21 on 3-pointers. They also clanked nine of their 26 foul shots. That more than offset a 46-43 rebounding advantage.
“Offensively, we were terrible to start the game,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “We turned the ball over three times to start it … travel calls, falling over ourselves. Our offense was terrible. If we had taken care of the ball and made a couple of shots, we had a chance.”
Even the Volunteers’ leading scorers needed a lot of shots to get there. Victor Bailey’s 16 points came despite 4 of 14 shooting, and Santiago Vescovi’s netted 13 but hit only 5 of 15.
In the post, John Fulkerson managed just five shots from the field and scored only seven points. He hurt himself and the team by going 3 of 8 at the foul line.
“He never established what we needed to get done,” Barnes said. “That is tough when you’ve got a guy you’re counting on to give you something around the rim or get you there.”
Despite that outcome, Tennessee has been reasonably efficient on offense, hitting 45.5 percent from the field and scoring nearly 78 points per game. Bailey is their leading scorer at 13 ppg, while Fulkerson adds 11.1. Five other players average between 8 and 10.6, an indication of superior balance.
Arkansas (9-1, 1-1) shot the ball even worse than Tennessee did. As they fell 81-68 to No. 12 Missouri, the Razorbacks were a hideous 19 of 71 from the field and 7 of 28 on 3-pointers. They also bricked 11 of their 34 free throws.
Whether it was frustration from lousy shooting or a marathon game in which the officials administered 73 free throws on 55 fouls, Arkansas coach Eric Musselman wasn’t around for the end of it. He received two technicals with 3:51 left in the game and exited the game.
“Not going to talk about it at all,” Musselman said. “I think we’ll talk with the proper authorities and leave it at that.”
Musselman was more interested in breaking down what his team didn’t do against a more experienced foe.
“Number one, you’ve got to run the floor hard and cut hard to get open,” he said. “Those are two things I don’t think we’ve done the way we need to. I think every coach in the country talks about that. And we looked young tonight. We made plays on both sides of the ball that we just can’t make.”
Moses Moody’s 16.9 ppg leads four Razorbacks in double figures. They are averaging nearly 89 ppg and forcing 15.2 turnovers per game.
–Field Level Media