Three takeaways from Vols’ upset loss to Colorado

In one of the most shocking upsets of Rick Barnes’ Tennessee basketball career, the Vols fell 78-66 to the Colorado Buffaloes Sunday at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. UT, ranked 11th in both polls, earned a 75-43 win over the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles in the opener.

However, Colorado suffered a shocking loss to the Grambling Tigers. Tad Boyle’s team lost to the Vols in Boulder, Colorado last year and Knoxville, Tennessee the year before. It was a back-and-forth game for a while, but Colorado pulled away in the second half. With seven and a half minutes to go, they went on a 9-0 run, 57-52, to take control.

Rocky Top is now down 1-1 and hosts the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles on Wednesday. Colorado improves to 2-1 and meets the UMASS Minutemen in South Carolina on Thursday to open the three-day Myrtle Beach Invitational. Here are three things we learned from Tennessee Basketball’s first loss of the season.

1st offense was terrible in color.

It’s typical to point out a bad three-point shooting day when a team like the Vols is losing, and indeed they were 10-of-37, or 27 percent from the outside. However, Colorado was only 8 out of 26, or 30.8 percent, so it shouldn’t have made all that much of a difference. What changed was the Vols’ offense inside the arc. UT was 6-of-26 on two pointers in play.

At one point the guards were 2 out of 11 on the edge. Despite 12 points, Zakai Zeigler missed numerous shots in the paint. Santiago Vescovi didn’t help to get 2-of-11 from three despite 11 points. The same was true for Tyreke Key, who had 15 points but was 0 out of 4 out of two. Josiah-Jordan James also had 15 points but was 1 of 3 inside the arc.

2. Colorado was more physical.

Building on the previous post, part of the reason Tennessee basketball struggled so much on the inside was because the aftermath was terrible. Uros Plavsic was eliminated three minutes later with an ankle injury and the Vols somehow couldn’t equalize what he brought to the table. Colorado just passed the Vols, evidenced by their 47-38 rebound advantage.

To be fair, Olivier Nkamhoua had 10 rebounds, but he was 1 of 8 out of the field and settled for four threes. Julian Phillips was 1-of-6 and settled for three threes. UT got to the free-throw line and hit 24-of-30 from there, but Colorado’s physical play that caused that made them so unpredictable on the inside.

3. The defense in the second half was a disaster.

Despite Plavsic’s injury and all the offensive problems, a keynote for the Vols under Barnes is that their defense can carry them when they fight like this. Well, the defense didn’t carry them in the second half. Colorado had 46 points that half and just walked off after a relatively quiet first half.

For the game, the Tennessee basketball forced 19 turnovers. Vescovi had five steals, James had three, and Key had two. James also had two blocks. He was the only one who played physically. However James is recovering and was beaten up so playing 27 minutes late slowed him down. No one else performed, and that allowed Colorado to go.