KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee came away with win No. 5 with the 84-60 victory over Mercer Wednesday, but the story wasn’t solely about the basketball game.
Athletic director John Currie didn’t attend the game, but he was the most chanted about person in the student section. Students began the game chanting “Fire John Currie” at the first TV timeout. The game ops turned up the music in an attempt to drown out the chants.
The students began to chant during the game when music isn’t allowed to be played. Regular fans had joined into the chants by the second half.
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes defended his athletic director after the game.
“It’s disappointing because I think we have a good basketball team,” Barnes said. “I’d like for people to come into this arena and let our guys know they appreciate their effort and hard work.
“I think John Currie is working really hard. It’s a hard job to hire coaches at any level. I think the fact is it is a harder job than people think.”
The chants came from the frustrations with the football coaching search.
Here are some observations from Tennessee’s win.
No Battle 4 Atlantis hangover
Tennessee had a good showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament last week coming away with a 2-1 record in three days. The only loss came to Villanova 85-76. The Vols proved they have the potential for an NCAA tournament run.
Against lesser competition would the team remain as locked in?
Tennessee emphatically answered yes to the question.
The Vols grab an early double-digit lead and would not let Mercer have much of a chance to hang around.
The quality conference wins will be important for the tournament resume. It’s also important to take care of business against the weaker opponents when they are on the schedule.
Tennessee’s offense stays hot
The Vols had a tendency to fall in love with the 3-point shot last season, sometimes to their detriment. The team can still can three happy this year, but they might be better equipped to shoot a good percentage from deep.
The Vols made a blistering 8-0f-12 from behind the 3-point line in the first half on the way to a 46-27 point lead. Tennessee finished with 13 total.
Forward Jordan Bowden had the hot hand in this matchup making 4-of-5 from behind 3. He finished with 18 points.
The team can go far
This team might lack star power. Grant Williams is the only player who can elevate his game consistently to a First Team All-SEC level. He led all scorers with 21 points.
The team plays hard for each other, though and trusts Barnes. Plenty of teams have made runs behind a deep bench and a handful of players who know their role.
Tennessee also does a fantastic job of sharing the basketball. The Vols assisted on 26 of 30 made shots. This is one reason the 3-point shooting shows an ability to last throughout the season.
If Tennessee’s defense can remain as stout this season, the team has NCAA tournament written all over it.
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