The story a month ago was when Jordan McRae led the team in scoring, Tennessee basketball was almost guaranteed to lose. That was far from the truth on Saturday afternoon.
Six players finished in double-figures in scoring as the Vols easily handled Tusculum College on a solemn Saturday afternoon in Thompson Boling Arena. With an announced crowd of just over 14,000 there were times you could literally hear a pin drop during the game, which had the feel of a golf-like atmosphere.
It was clear from the beginning that Saturday’s game against Tusculum was more of a scrimmage for the Vols to try a few different lineups and sets since they went with a two point guard set with Antonio Barton and Darius Thompson to start the game.
Tennessee capped off their 98-51 victory while allowing 13 different players see playing time, which could prove to be pivotal once conference play starts this week.
Everything was somewhat back to normal for the Vols as Jordan McRae led the team in scoring as he has most of the season with 19 points. The only thing abnormal was junior guard Josh Richardson, who has been a scoring machine as of late, coming off the bench during Saturday afternoon’s game.
“Richardson was late to a meeting,” coach Cuonzo Martin simply stated. “That’s why he didn’t start.”
Jeronne Maymon also had a solid effort for Tennessee with 16 points and seven boards. As the Vols’ offense has finally began to take shape, averaging 89 points the last three games, so is Maymon’s as he’s now posted efforts of at least 16 points in three of the last four games.
“When we play well we come into the next game each time with that much more confidence,” said Maymon. “We’re going to need that going into SEC play.”
Tennessee will begin SEC play on Tuesday when they travel to Baton Rouge, La to face the LSU Tigers (9-2) after their four-game home-stand. LSU’s only two losses have come on the road against Massachusetts, and at home against No. 21 Memphis.
Like they have their past three games, the Vols will have to have another superb shooting performance to earn their first true road win of the season, and start conference play off on the right foot. Last year Tennessee began conference play with three straight losses, and four straight losses the year prior after starting SEC play with a victory over Florida.
The month of January is what hasn’t been too kind to the Vols over the past two seasons, and has been the major factor determining the Vols’ post-season fate. If they can change their luck in January and have continued success in February and March there’s no doubt despite two bad losses to UTEP and NC State that Tennessee could still go dancing in 2014.
Tennessee’s first SEC game will be at 7 p.m. on the road at LSU and will air on ESPN.