In their shocking win over 14th ranked Florida, Tennessee’s defensive performance garnered most of the attention by holding the high-scoring Gators (83.6 points per game, sixth in the nation) to just 56 points off 35 percent shooting. However, a significant change on offense may have altered the course of the Vols’ season.
Coming into Saturday’s game, Tennessee averaged over 21 three-point shots a game for just 37 percent. In their two previous games against Chattanooga and Memphis, the Vols shot an embarrassing 18-of-60 from beyond the arc.
Against the Gators, though, the Vols connected on 5-of-10 from the three-point line, their fewest attempts in nearly two months. The result was a 51 percent shooting performance with four players finishing in double-figures against a conference rival with NBA talent. It seems Tennessee has finally traded its mediocre, finesse shooting and finally bought into coach Cuonzo Martin’s aggressive philosophy.
Individually, the change was most evident in point guard, and leading scorer, Trae Golden. Labeled a “score first” point guard throughout the season, Golden has carried the majority of his team’s offensive production. Against Memphis, the sophomore’s 22 points off 8-of-14 shooting was Tennessee’s lone offensive threat in the blowout loss.
But in Saturday’s win, Golden’s attempts from the floor were cut by almost half from 14 to just eight. Instead, Golden facilitated plays that allowed big men Kenny Hall and Jerrone Maymon to attack Florida in the post, resulting in 25 points between the two.
Look for Tennessee (and star recruit Jarnell Stokes, who's now eligible) to continue attacking the post for high percentage shots, even against the dominant frontcourts from upcoming opponents Mississippi State and Kentucky.