LSU only brought 7 scholarship players to Knoxville, due to various injuries and suspensions. Gritty as they were, the Tigers were visibly gassed during large swaths of both halves, making way for Tennessee to lead by double digits through almost the entire game.
The Vols were messy at times on both ends of the floor, but easily made up for it with Big shooting nights from James Daniel and Jordan Bone, and the team’s now signature relentless defense. There were even some signs of the recently absent enthusiasm from the Vols, after a posterizing dunk from Derrick Walker in the second half.
Tennessee shot over 54.1% from the field, including 12 from 3-Point range. The Vols got points from every player who entered the game except Yves Pons, and scored a stunning 44 points off the bench. Rick Barnes continues to successfully mine this team for higher and higher quality depth.
One bright spot for LSU, and a point of potential concern looking forward for Tennessee, was a dominating 21- point performance in the paint by 6-11 forward Duop Reath. Reath was rarely stopped from scoring the ball when the Tigers could get it to him. Throughout the season, the Vols have used physicality and hustle to mask their relative lack of size around the goal. On Wednesday night, watching Reath score 1/3 Of LSU’s points, you had to wonder how this Tennessee interior will scheme against legit Forwards in Tournament season. Fortunately, LSU had nothing going on besides Duop. Grant Williams and Kyle Alexander had no answer for Duop, and the Vols will need to quickly prioritize this weak spot in their (otherwise-nasty) defense, before heading into the higher stakes post-season against more big,, strong forwards.
Altogether, and in spite of some sloppy moments, this was easily one of the most complete performances by a Tennessee team that’s clearly not letting their success distract them from continuing to tighten the screws, work on their in-game chemistry, and find ways to extend this year’s momentum into the post-season.
The 18th-ranked Vols (16-5, 6-5) will be back at it Saturday, Feb 3rd, at home against Ole Miss (6pm EST, SEC Network)