Tennessee made its final 3-point attempt Tuesday night during the opening game of the Jimmy V Classic inside New York City's famed Madison Square Garden.
It's the 34 misses from long range by the No. 13 Volunteers that left the lasting impact as they fell to Texas Tech 57-52 in overtime. In a hideous display of shooting accuracy, the Vols and Red Raiders combined to make 10-of-64 3-point attempts, with Tennessee's 6-of-40 performance translating to a 15.0% success rate.
"This is a team that made 17 threes in a game," Vols coach Rick Barnes said, referring to the program record Tennessee set in its opening win over UT Martin. "We had some looks tonight, but we just couldn't get one to go down. We kept encouraging our guys to keep taking their shots.
"Both teams had chances to stretch things out, but it was a game where it became a possession game, and we couldn't do enough on the offensive end."
The Vols (6-2) shot an abysmal 19-of-71 overall (26.8%) and couldn't even capitalize at the free-throw line, making 8-of-16 attempts (50.0%). The guard trio of Kennedy Chandler, Zakai Zeigler and Santiago Vescovi that was so impressive in the 89-72 hammering of North Carolina on Nov. 21 was anemic against the Red Raiders (7-1), combining on 10-of-38 from the floor and 4-of-23 from long range.
Sixth-year senior forward John Fulkerson scored a team-high 10 points, capitalizing on a couple of nice assists from Chandler, but Chandler, Vescovi and Zeigler were held to nine points apiece.
"We got a lot of good looks," Vols junior guard Josiah-Jordan James said. "In the second half, we got everything we could have asked for as far as looks. It just wasn't our day."
Tennessee made only two of its first 30 attempts from behind the arc, but Vescovi's 3-pointer with 1:52 left in regulation pulled the Vols into a 41-41 tie. That Vescovi basket marked Tennessee's first field goal in more than 10 minutes.
A James 3-pointer with 33 seconds left in regulation forged a 44-44 deadlock, and Vescovi had a chance to win it, but his 3-pointer missed with less than five seconds to play.
"The positive is that I don't know that we can be any worse on offense, and we were in the game," said Barnes, who posted a 33-4 record against the Red Raiders during his 17 seasons as Texas head coach. "It gets discouraging when you can't make shots, and it's hard to get momentum, but some teams will let up on the other end. I don't think we did that. I thought we stayed in it defensively and made them work for what they had to get.
"We stayed in it and had a chance. We had a great look to win the game."
Terrence Shannon finished with a game-high 18 points and scored two of Texas Tech's first three baskets in overtime as the Red Raiders built a 50-44 lead. It was 55-49 when Vescovi made Tennessee's final 3 of the evening to briefly make it a one-possession game.
One of the strangest sequences of the night occurred with less than four minutes in regulation and Texas Tech leading 39-38. James broke free for an opportunity at either a dunk or layup but missed, and the Red Raiders capitalized with a Bryson Williams basket that made it 41-38 instead of the Vols having the lead.
"I kind of just hyper-extended my knee," James said. "It just kind of gave out, and I just fell."
Both teams struggled offensively out of the gate, with Tennessee shooting 3-of-12 overall and 0-of-6 from 3-point range through the first two media time outs. Stellar early defense by the Vols kept things tight, and they took a 15-12 lead on a Vescovi jumper at the 8:07 mark of the first half, but the Red Raiders countered with an 8-0 run that culminated on a Williams layup.
Texas Tech would stretch its advantage to 28-20 on a Kevin Obanor 3-pointer with 3:36 before halftime, but the Vols pulled to within 29-25 at the break on a Victor Bailey 3-pointer and an acrobratic jumper by Zeigler.
Another Obanor 3-pointer early in the second half provided Texas Tech a 34-25 advantage.
After abruptly being dismissed from the NCAA tournament this past March by Oregon State and getting waxed by Villanova in their opening game of last month's Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Connecticut, the Vols had another big stage in which to perform. Unfortunately for them, the outcome was the same.
"I don't think there's any question that when you're in a special place, it can affect guys," Barnes said. "That's why we do this, because hopefully we're going to be on a bigger stage than this at some point in time."
The Vols will be back in Knoxville on Saturday afternoon for a 4:30 matchup against UNCG.
Odds and ends
Tennessee played before 92,630 fans through its first seven games after playing in front of 89,467 spectators in 27 games last season, when crowds were socially distanced due to the coronavirus. The Vols fell to 15-20 lifetime against teams currently in the Big 12. ... Tuesday was just the second meeting between the two programs, with Texas Tech having won the first encounter, 88-71, in Knoxville back in December 1953.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.