Okay, this won’t be easy to write. I can admit that I probably care too much about the outcome of these games. They are just that, games. But I am not the only one who cares this much about the program, I would like to think everyone who cheers on the Vols cares and cares a lot. That’s why it is so frustrating when you have a performance like you had last night against the Rebels. Coming off a win where it looked like you finally had turned the corner against Kansas, then you opened up the game against Ole Miss picking up where you left off, Josiah James hit three - 3 pointers and the Vols opened up an 11 point lead, then everything went south. Credit to Jon Reed on Twitter for this stat that he posted: "Against Georgetown in 2012 in that infamous 37-36 loss the Vols shot 15-46 for 32.6% last night vs Ole Miss? 16-45 for 35.6%."
Yes, Ole Miss does have the second best defense in the conference statistically (UT is first) so, it’s not really the lack of scoring that worries/frustrates me. When you put two defensive teams together you’re more than likely going to get those types of performances. What worries me is that we really beat ourselves. Not to single him out, but Keon Johnson missed a free throw to more than likely send the game to overtime (I'll get back to the free throws later) and before that, coming down the court the Vols had one timeout that you think they should use to set up a play to go for the tie, or win, but instead Coach Barnes lets them play on, which led to Keon Johnson being at the line. After the missed free throw, Coach Barnes then called the timeout, which you would think they would use to let the players know they are going to intentionally miss the free throw, down two with 3.2 seconds to go you had Josiah James arguably your best rebounder ready to rebound the intentional miss, but no, Coach told Keon to make the free throw, you can tell based on how he shot/made it. So, the Vols were down 1 with 3.2 to go and no timeouts (Which again, if we had saved the timeout where coach could’ve easily hollered from the sidelines to make the free throw) after fouling Ole Miss made 1 of their two free throws and it was a 2 point game. With 3.0 on the clock the Vols raced down the court and launched a prayer that fell short.
I said I would get back to the free throw shooting, so here it is. For the year, the Vols are 6th in the SEC at converting free throws, shooting 72% from the stripe. In this game the Vols shot 10-16 for 62%. So, in a game where the Vols lost by two, making 3 free throws is the difference. I don’t know what they’re doing in practice, but I hope free throws are a focal point this week (like they should’ve been all year). So, essentially what I’m saying is, there’s even blame to go around. You HAVE to hit your free throws if you want to win, and if you’re Rick Barnes, you have to coach a better game. Now, all of this may be forgiven if the Vols make a run this March, but the exact same reasons we lost last night, will most likely be why we lose in March if something doesn’t get fixed.
The Vols travel up North to dump- I mean, Rupp arena for a Saturday night showdown with the Mildcats, I mean um, Wildcats. That game will tip at 8 pm and will air on ESPN (please lord, spare us from having Dick Vitale)
Written by: Dallas Bowlin