KNOXVILLE — No. 17-ranked Tennessee notched its fifth consecutive win to start the men's basketball season Monday, defeating the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga 58-46 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Here are three next-day observations about the Volunteers from the game:
* This offense isn't good — yet: A team is only as good as its options, and as of right now Tennessee doesn't have many of them offensively. The Vols are relying a lot on Lamonte Turner to initiate offense and Jordan Bowden to create and generate it. When those players are effective, you get higher offensive numbers and better efficiency, but if Bowden and Turner aren't making shots or creating offense, the Vols struggle on that end, such as on Monday. Tennessee currently doesn't have many players who strike fear on the offensive end. A couple should emerge as the season wears on and they'll have to, or there could be some struggles once Southeastern Conference play begins. But until then ...
* Defense leads the way: The Vols' length and quickness defensively were too much for the Mocs. UTC shot just 34% from the field and made less than half of its layup attempts (7-of-15). Tennessee blocked seven shots, most coming at the rim with the exception being a Yves Pons block of a Rod Johnson shot as the shot clock was hitting zero. Defense is going to have to lead the way this season for the Vols while the offensive options continue to develop and grow, and if Tennessee can defend like it did Monday night, it can overcome a lot of poor shooting performances, like the one Monday night.
* Rebounding guards are key: At 6-foot-6 and 208 pounds, Josiah-Jordan James has the size and athleticism to go into the paint and rebound when needed. He grabbed 12 rebounds total in his first three games but has averaged 12 rebounds in the past two. He's also shown that he can defend some on the interior if needed when the Vols employ a smaller lineup. And against UTC, he wasn't even the best rebounding guard on the team; that honor went to senior Bowden, who struggled with his shot (6-of-15, 13 points) but had a career-best 12 rebounds. With the Vols' limitations in height and interior options, they're going to need the guards to go inside and battle, which will take some of the pressure off the post players.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.