Tennessee Volunteers Return To Form Against Vanderbilt

Andrew KaufmanSenior Analyst IJanuary 21, 2009

That was better.

The Tennessee Volunteers looked much more like the team they need to become, controlling play throughout the first half of Tuesday night’s against Vanderbilt en route to an important road victory.

The result of the game was never really in doubt—Vanderbilt never made a serious run at the lead. And, while Tennessee definitely benefited from some terrible outside shooting from the Commodores, the Vols still showed plenty of signs that they are developing and learning how to best play as a team, especially on offense.

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article outlining the three things Tennessee had to improve upon in order to be a force in the SEC in 2009. They were, in order: get the ball inside, be more aggressive on defense, and understand individual roles on offense.

Tennessee’s pressure defense still isn’t what it used to be, but the Volunteers have done a pretty good job of following my suggestions on offense.

The Vols got the ball inside early and often Tuesday night, and it paid off in a big way—center Wayne Chism scored 16 of Tennessee’s 28 first-half points. By the end of the game, Chism and power forward Tyler Smith had combined for 38 of the Volunteer’s 76 total points, with Chism shooting a stellar 8-11 on the night and Smith adding five assists.

Tennessee’s success in the paint would not have been possible without the improved, intelligent play of their guards. J.P. Prince, whom I have called out in the past for failing to understand his role, specifically for shooting the ball from the perimeter too much. He took advantage of his strength and quickness to supplement Chism and Smith inside, scoring 16 points on only eight shots.

It wasn’t just Prince, though. The Vols took only 13 three-point shots the entire game, which is a large part of the reason they shot 50 percent from the field as a team. Tennessee looked more efficient on offense, recognizing opportunities and moving the ball up the floor quickly.

If the Volunteers can keep it up, they just might be the SEC favorite everyone thought they were in November.