At the rate Tennessee is going, the Basketball Vols will be averaging a point per minute any game now.
After scoring 36 points in 40 minutes last Friday night at Georgetown, the Big Orange posted 38 points in 40 minutes Wednesday night at Virginia. The result of another ugly offensive performance was another disappointing loss as the Cavaliers prevailed 46-38.
Virginia, winning for the sixth time in a row, improves to 7-2. Tennessee, losing for the second time in a row, drops to 4-3. The Big Orange returns to action Thursday, Dec. 13, hosting Wichita State.
After shooting 32.6 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from 3-point range against Georgetown, the Vols figured there was nowhere to go but up against Virginia. They were wrong. Tennessee shot 28.8 percent (15 of 52) from the field against the Cavaliers, including a frigid 15.8 percent (3 of 19) from beyond the arc. And, for the second game in a row, Tennessee recorded more turnovers (12) than assists (7).
Despite his team's woeful shooting, the Vols' head coach figured his troops got some high-percentage shots.
"I thought our guys did a good job of setting themselves up to get good looks," Cuonzo Martin said on the post-game show, subsequently adding: "We missed some looks but that's part of it. We've got to find ways to knock that shot down."
Trae Golden led the Vols with 11 points but sank just 4 of 12 field-goal tries. Kenny Hall added 8 points, with 6 coming on consecutive first-half dunks off assists from Jordan McRae, Skylar McBee and Jarnell Stokes.
McBee was 2 of 9 from the field en route to 5 points. McBee (1 of 7) and Golden (1 of 5) were a combined 2 of 12 from 3-point range. All-star candidate Stokes, limited to three shots in the Georgetown game, got just five against Virginia, making two and also finishing with 5 points.
"I didn't think we went inside enough to Jarnell Stokes," Martin said. "I think in some cases you've got to be able force the ball in there to him. The pass might not be as crisp but he's got to be able to go get that pass and make a play."
Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris scored 13 points each to pace Virginia, which never trailed despite shooting just 35.8 percent (19 of 53) from the field and 12.5 percent (1 of 8) from 3.
The Vols basically lost this game in the first 14:30, making just 3 of their first 17 shots in falling behind 21-6. They outscored Virginia 10-4 to end the half but still went to the break down 25-16.
Two free throws by Golden and a 3-pointer by McBee narrowed the gap to four points (25-21) two minutes into the second half but Virginia responded with an 11-0 run to rebuild the lead to 15 points at 36-21.
Golden and McRae drained 3-pointers to spark a 12-2 rally that pulled Tennessee within five at 38-33 with 7:41 remaining. The Vols eventually whittled the deficit to four (42-38) with 36.5 seconds left but Virginia hit four free throws in the final 32 seconds to seal the deal.
Five players saw action at the point for Tennessee. Golden started but sophomore walk-on Brandon Lopez supplanted freshman Armani Moore as the first point guard off the bench.
"Brandon has done a really good job in practice, really competing and running his team when he has the white team in practice," Martin said. "He does a good job of being vocal on defense and knows his assignments. I felt like he needed an opportunity ... and I thought he did a solid job out there."
When Moore struggled a bit in his time at the point, wings Josh Richardson and McRae saw some action filling the lead-guard role.
"I thought Jordan did really well at the point position," Martin said. "Jordan is more fluid at that position. He has great vision for his size in finding guys and he makes nice bounce passes to those big guys in the lane. I thought he did a really good job."