If there’s one skill Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is confident his No. 11 Volunteers can do, it’s shoot.
While Tennessee’s performance in a season-opening 75-43 win over visiting Tennessee Tech on Monday didn’t reflect that, he’s not going to change the Volunteers’ approach when they face Colorado on Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.
The Volunteers shot 26 for 65 (40 percent), including 14 for 44 (31.8 percent) from 3-point range against Tennessee Tech.
Barnes was encouraged by what his team did in the second half. The Volunteers shot 17 for 36 (47.2 percent) from the field and 10 for 23 (43.5 percent) from beyond the arc during a 48-point half that turned an 11-point halftime lead into a rout.
“We’re going to shoot the ball. We’ve worked too hard not to do that. I’m not sure we had many of them that were what I would call a bad shot,” Barnes said. “We knew going in that they were going to pack it back in there. We knew that if played inside out, that’s what it would be. We said hey, if we’re open, take it.”
Tyreke Key, a transfer from Indiana State who missed all of last season with an injured right shoulder, came off the bench to score 17 points on 5-for-10 shooting that included going 4 for 8 from distance.
“You wonder when they start popping popcorn and the lights come on how guys will respond,” Barnes said. “I am not surprised. His demeanor pretty much never changes.”
Zakai Zeigler scored 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting to go along with five assists and Santiago Vescovi added nine points and eight rebounds.
The Volunteers scored 28 points off 22 Golden Eagles’ turnovers and outrebounded them 37-28.
Colorado is coming off a season-opening, 82-66 win over visiting UC Riverside on Monday. The Buffaloes used a 14-0 first-half run to take a 46-28 advantage at halftime before leading by as many as 21 points in the second half.
J’Vonne Hadley had 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, while KJ Simpson added 14 points and Tristan da Silva and Jalen Gabbidon, a transfer from Yale, chipped in 12 points apiece.
“I’ve been around college basketball a lot and I’ve played in a lot of games against high-level teams and in practice on any given day, anyone can be unstoppable,” Gabbidon said. “To have that asset of depth is huge for us. We have 10, 11, 12 guys who can all contribute at the highest level, so there’s no reason for us to hold back.”
The Buffaloes shot 30 for 64 (46.9 percent) from the field, including 6 for 13 (46.2 percent) from beyond the arc. However, the Buffaloes shot a dreadful 16 for 26 (61.5 percent) from the free-throw line, which they can’t afford to do on Sunday.
Colorado also will have to play much better defensively if it’s to upset Tennessee. Colorado was outrebounded by the Highlanders 44-43 and gave up 42 points in the paint, as well as 10 second-chance points.
–Field Level Media