Tennessee missed its first seven 3-pointers Tuesday night against Texas Tech. Five different Vols collaborated on the misfires until freshman Zakai Zeigler connected with five minutes, six seconds left in the first half.
Zeigler’s basket didn’t signal a change of fortune or a sharpening of shooting sights. Far from it.
The Vols kept firing away from long range, until they had squeezed the trigger on a whopping 40 attempts from long range. The total was nine more than all of their other shot attempts combined.
All they had to show for their indulgence was six treys total.
In the end, they squandered a supreme defensive effort and missed a shot at victory, falling in overtime to Texas Tech 57-52 in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
It seemed fitting afterward that guard Josiah-Jordan James employed a double negative in offering some context for the game.
“Some days the ball seems like it can’t not go in,” he said. “And some days it seems like you just can’t make it. It comes with the ebbs and flow of the game.”
There’s no ebb and flow to Tennessee’s 3-point attempts, however. Through the first eight games, UT is shooting 42.3 percent of its shots from long range. The percentage has risen by two percent in just the last two games and now is 13 percent greater than last season.
The Vols established a new single-game program high for 3-pointers with 17 against UT Martin in the season opener. UT Rick Barnes mentioned that total during his postgame comments, as if he was trying to wrap his head around how both shooting games could happen in the same season.
Tennessee needs a better plan B for nights like Tuesday. Some form of it is bound to happen again. Here’s a few thoughts:
Free throws: The Vols needed to make more than eight of their 16 attempts against Tech. In that sort of game, which ESPN game analyst Jay Bilas equated to a fistfight, they needed more than 16 attempts.
Tennessee’s other favorite scoring option has been freshman guard Kennedy Chandler driving to the basket. He parlayed the strategy into a spectacular 27-point performance at Colorado on Saturday. He scored just three baskets inside the arc against Tech, however, and only managed one free throw attempt.
Other shots: Veteran forward John Fulkerson scored a team-high 10 points but was 4-for-9 from the field and missed twice from close range inside the final four minutes of regulation.
Meanwhile, forward Olivier Nhamhoua, UT’s other best inside scoring option, attempted just three shots and matched his season low for minutes with 13.
Was shooting more threes a better option than more attempts for those two players?
Offensive rebounds: Villanova played in Tuesday’s second game and suffered similar shooting woes, shooting 13 for 50 from long range. But the Wildcats went to work on the boards, gathering 27 offensive rebounds and converting them into 25 second-chance points. Those points were the difference in a 67-53 comeback victory over Syracuse.
Tennessee matched Tech with 10 offensive boards and had an 11-5 edge in second-chance points. The disparity helped, but not enough.
Like shot selection, this scoring option, to some extent, is a matter of choice if the Vols are deploying more than two guards, as they did in the second half.
Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.