Tennessee basketball: Three takeaways from Vols 69-68 win at Alabama

A three-game losing streak for Tennessee basketball broke with the Volunteers beating the Alabama Crimson Tide. Here are three things we learned.

Trailing by 15 in the first half with just over three minutes to go, Tennessee basketball led a furious comeback to defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide on the road Tuesday night, breaking a three-game losing streak. The Vols scored a huge 69-68 victory in the process.

Yves Pons blocked a potential game-tying shot with Rick Barnes’ team up by two and less than 10 seconds left, and then he sank two free throws to secure the win. A Kira Lewis Jr. three-pointer as time expired is what made it a one-point game, but Rocky Top had already won.

UT now improves to 13-9 and 5-4 in SEC play with the Kentucky Wildcats at home up next Saturday. Alabama, meanwhile, falls to 12-10 and 4-5 in the SEC under first-year head coach Nate Oats with the Georgia Bulldogs on the road Saturday up next. Here are three takeaways from Tennessee basketball’s epic comeback Tuesday.

1. Inside game has returned.

After getting dominated on the boards in inexcusable fashion, the Vols finally got aggressive on the inside again. We just mentioned Pons’s block to end the game. Well, he had three on the night, and John Fulkerson also had three while leading the team with 22 points.

Meanwhile, UT outrebounded Alabama 42-23, and they had an epic 19 offensive rebounds. That offset a rough night for them offensively. Uros Plavsic only had three points and three rebounds in his second start, but Pons’s aggressiveness helped things inside, as he had 14 points and 14 rebounds. He was the hustle player all night.

2. Defense and free throws led the way again.

In addition to dominating on the boards and down low, Yves Pons and Jordan Bowden were the catalysts for Tennessee basketball winning on defense. Pons being the hustle player with three blocks and 14 rebounds was complement by Bowden getting six steals. It was the perfect combination that forced Alabama to commit 20 turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Vols made sure to offset their struggles shooting not just with offensive rebounds but by getting to the line. Bowden didn’t hit one three-pointer, but he got to the line 11 times and hit 10 free throws to score 20 points. Pons secured the game with two free throws at the end. This is how UT won, going 23-of-32 from the foul line on the night.

3. Shooting efficiency is still an issue.

With Josiah-Jordan James out, this makes a bit more sense. But the Vols still struggle to be consistent from the outside, and that’s not indicative of the players they have. On this night, it was beyond atrocious.

Overall, this team shot two-of-18 from the three-point line. Jordan Bowden was 0-for-six, and Santiago Vecovi was one-for-five. Yves Pons hit one-of-two. But overall, the shooting woes continue, and even in a thrilling road win, that’s concerning.