Friday, March 1, 2024

Tennessee basketball marred by lulls, 3-point defense in road loss at Texas A&M

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas − Jordan Gainey dove into the Tennessee basketball bench with the loose ball in his sights. He was too late.

Texas A&M guard Wade Taylor IV beat Gainey to the ball he had lost seconds prior. He scooped it up, turned and fired away. It went in, a common occurrence for Texas A&M and an uncommon one for Tennessee on Saturday at Reed Arena.

Tennessee could not corral the Aggies and sputtered on offense a week after a world-beating offensive bombardment at Kentucky. It lost 85-69 to Texas A&M, falling to third in the SEC standings and squandering an opportunity to bolster its case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Dalton Knecht led the No. 6 Vols (17-6, 7-3 SEC) with 22 points, but little came easily for the standout scorer and he battled foul trouble. Zakai Zeigler had 15 points and six assists.

Taylor and Tyrece Radford led Texas A&M (15-8, 6-4) with 25 and 27 points, respectively.

Texas A&M’s 3-point shooting buried the Vols quickly

Radford made a 3-pointer on Texas A&M’s first possession, a sign of things to come. The Aggies entered Saturday as one of the nation’s worst 3-point shooting teams, hitting a putrid 26.6% this season.

A 4-for-5 start grew to an 8-for-12 start as the Aggies flew past their 6.5 threes-per-game average in the first 13 minutes. Taylor was the star, making his first five attempts after averaging 2.5 made 3-pointers per game.

Tennessee basketball’s offense didn’t get going until too late

Knecht made back-to-back 3-pointers in the middle of the first half, a brief quell to the Texas A&M onslaught to pull UT within 11. It unraveled for the rest of the first half and got even worse in the in the second.

Tennessee missed 10 straight field goals across a 9:05 stretch spanning halftime from a Jonas Aidoo layup to a Santiago Vescovi 3-pointer. UT did not score for the first 4:32 of the second half while Texas A&M opened a 20-point lead.

The Vols got the lead down to 12 multiple times in the final 10 minutes.

Life on the road isn’t a simple task for Tennessee basketball

Tennessee now has two losses on the road in SEC play this season. UT also lost 77-72 at Mississippi State on Jan. 10.

STAR: Untold stories of Dalton Knecht’s ascension to Tennessee basketball star, NBA Draft prospect

The Vols earned an impressive road win at Kentucky on Feb. 3, hammering the Wildcats 103-92. They also won at Georgia on Jan. 13, but that game required a heroic second-half push from Knecht and a comeback to win it. UT also had a terrific second half in a road victory at Vanderbilt on Jan. 27 after a tough start.

Up next

Tennessee plays at Arkansas on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at michael.wilson@knoxnews.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.

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