Josh Richardson’s missed foul shots with 42 seconds left against Kentucky embody Tennessee’s season:
So much heart. So many missed opportunities.
The loss at Rupp was the Vols’ fourth straight and seventh of the season, but it was easily the team’s best performance in weeks (considering the competition and setting). It’s clear adjusted expectations for the season are in order, so here’s an assessment of Tennessee’s key players through some rose colored lenses.
Where did this come from?... wait I mean... Why did he wait so long to start... never mind, who cares? Let’s just all be thankful the team has at least one offensive threat.
McRae had more points (23) than his fellow starters combined against Kentucky, and accounted for almost half of Tennessee’s trips to the foul line (eight). It was his fourth-straight 20-plus point performance, bumping his scoring average to just under 14 PPG.
Richardson didn’t have a typical night in terms of filling a stat sheet, but he provided solid production with six points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals.
However, it’s difficult to overlook Richardson’s gaffe at the foul line that could have made it a one possession game. Going back to his missed dunk late against Memphis, it seems Richardson might lack some mental toughness.
Foul trouble kept both Stokes and Makanjoula on the sidelines for much of the game, leaving massive holes in the Vols post defense. Makanjoula, in particular, defended Kentucky’s big men well, but Tennessee was way undersized once he and Stokes started amassing fouls.
The burden of replacing Jeronne Maymon lies squarely on their shoulders, but neither player has stepped up to the challenge. Maybe it’s unreasonable, but as these two players go, so too will this season. Unless they can find a way to stay on the floor and generate some points, the Vols have no chance of making even the NIT.