Tennessee basketball: Three takeaways from Vols’ 79-67 loss at No. 21 LSU

A furious comeback effort by Tennessee basketball came up short. After trailing the LSU Tigers on the road by 20 with under 14 minutes to go, the Vols cut it to five points with three minutes left. They then got a stop with a chance to cut it to one score. However, Kennedy Chandler missed a layup and turned the ball over, and Santiago Vescovi missed a three on the next possession.

Vescovi then just hit one of two free throws on the next possession while, Will Wade’s team, ranked No. 21 in both polls, scored on their next three possessions to take control with a77-67 lead. Rick Barnes’ team, ranked No. 18 in both polls, was up early in Baton Rouge, La., but allowed an 8-0 first half run and an 11-0 second half run as LSU was taking control.

When it was 71-63, Xavier Pinson slipped on a wet spot and hurt his knee. That didn’t stop the Tigers from pulling away. LSU improves to 13-1 and 2-1 in the SEC with a trip to the Florida Gators set for Wednesday. UT falls to 10-4 and 1-2 in the SEC with a visit from the South Carolina Gamecocks set for Tuesday. Here are three things we learned from Tennessee basketball’s loss.

1. Shooting remains alarmingly bad.

Remember, this is a team that looked like it could rely on the three-point shot at the beginning of the year. However, for the third straight game, they have been awful at it, going 6-of-24 from beyond the arc in this one. To nobody’s surprise, Santiago Vescovi was the most reliable one, going 3-of-7 en route to 14 points. That was offset, though, with Josiah-Jordan James going 1-of-7.

More alarming in this one, though, was the free throw shooting. UT shot 23-of-37, or 62.2 percent, from the stripe. John Fulkerson notably went 3-of-6, but Kennedy Chandler, who did lead the team with 19 points, was 6-of-10. Although LSU also had an off-night from the line, they were 8-of-18 from three. That made a huge difference.

2. LSU’s bigs were too athletic.

We all saw it. Tennessee basketball still runs an inside out game under Barnes, and Fulkerson and Olivier Nkamhoua are the heart and soul of that. However, they couldn’t handle LSU’s tempo, largely because LSU’s bigs could run that tempo like all of them. Tari Eason had 24 points and 12 rebounds, Darius Days had 15 points, the team had six blocks, and they won 41-33 on the boards.

Now, Uros Plavsic did come in and score 12 points, but honestly, given how many chances he had, he missed more opportunities than he made, and not just going 2-of-5 from the line. There were wide open looks for him that he was too slow on the uptake like this highlight below, and doing that against LSU proved costly.

3. The Vols do have fight in them.

For what it’s worth, it’s clear Rocky Top doesn’t quit. They didn’t panic Wednesday when they needed overtime to beat the Ole Miss Rebels, and down by 19 with under 12 minutes to go, they didn’t panic in this game. If not for a couple of late mistakes, they could have pulled off a huge comeback and an upset win.

Despite the issues standing out on the team right now, Tennessee basketball doesn’t have an effort problem. It has an execution problem, and it may have a strategy problem, but the talent and effort are there. If it all comes together at some point, they could be dangerous.