Tennessee State outperformed the Tennessee Volunteers for about 37 minutes, but as any good college basketball fan knows, a lot can change in three minutes. The Vols found a way to get stops and mustered a few clutch baskets to defeat the visiting Tigers in a 74-69 win.
The Tigers didn't trail for almost the entirety of the second half, and it was at the 3:26 mark that what seemed like a big bucket was made by Tahjere McCall on a dunk. It was his first basket of the game. But it was McCall who then made two blunders. A missed layup after a UT miss voided TSU's opportunity to go back up three with 2:41 to go. After a Tennessee basket gave the Vols their first lead of the second half, missed shots from Keron Deshields and a hurried McCall 3-pointer turned into a Kevin Punter layup on the other end and allowed UT to grab a 5-point lead in the blink of an eye. And that was enough for the win. The normally reliable McCall finished 1-of-8 from the floor with just 3 points.
Punter wasn't just clutch at the end for Tennessee. His 23 points, which included 4 first half 3-pointers and 14 first half points kept the Vols within single-digits at halftime, 43-36.
The play of Wayne Martin, Keron Deshields, and Marcus Loper paid big dividends in TSU's first half success, but it just wasn't sustainable for the entirety of the game for all three. The scoring went down from about 1.2 points per possession in the first half to .813 in the second. It was only Martin who maintained a good presence around the bucket in the second half, scoring 11 points. He finished with 19. Deshields ended with 13 and Roper tallied 10.
Points off turnovers were a big factor in the Tigers leading most of the way as TSU outpaced UT 18-10 in that category. But a 16-4 Tennessee advantage in second-chance points ultimately hurt the Tigers greatly.
Though the statistics look fairly similar at the end of the day, the way in which these teams played without looking at the scoreboard would lead you to believe that the Tigers controlled this one. Tennessee was drilling plenty of 3-pointers, and got its fair share of offensive boards and putbacks around the hoop. Other than that, the Volunteers seemed to express disdain at the idea of scoring around the hoop, instead settling for plenty of mid-range jumpers. Credit Coach Dana Ford's Tiger defense in employing a mix of man and zone that discouraged Tennessee from drives to the hoop and back-to-the-basket post ups.
As you can see from the stat broadcast, here is what UT's shot selection looked like.
It's a disappointing loss for the Tigers, but not devastating considering the circumstances. TSU, coming off a five-win season, will head into OVC play tied with EKU with Eastern Kentucky for the most wins among all the Valley teams.