Tennessee was 14-5 entering today, but got there without any start-to-finish statements against major conference foes. The Vols ran away from Wake Forest in the final eight minutes, slowly pulled away from Texas A&M, and survived a furious rally from Vanderbilt after a 20-point lead earlier this week. But there was little relaxation available for much of those games.
Today wasn’t technically start-to-finish: Iowa State got out to a 12-5 lead in the first six minutes, denying the ball to Grant Williams and frustrating Tennessee’s offense. The Vols put more guards on the floor and started taking the threes the Cyclones were giving them.
And in the game’s final 34 minutes, Tennessee outscored Iowa State 63-33.
The lead was 12 by halftime, then the Vols outscored ISU by 11 in the second half. The Cyclones, weak in defending threes all year, watched Tennessee take a season-high 30 of them, knocking down a dozen (40%). Jordan Bowden was a chilly 1-of-4, but Lamonte Turner hit 6-of-9 and James Daniel added 3-of-7. And the Vols continued to share the ball well, scoring 14 assists on 24 made field goals. Tennessee made 12 two-point shots, 12 three-point shots, and eight free throws.
Meanwhile, Iowa State struggled from everywhere against Tennessee’s defense.
per the press room, 45 is the fewest points Iowa State has ever scored at Hilton Coliseum and the fewest scored in a home game since 1959.
Lowest scoring game for Iowa State since 2008.
— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) January 27, 2018
The defense was good, but the Cyclones also went 7-of-17 (41.2%) from the free throw line.
We hadn’t seen it much under Rick Barnes, but it’s good to know this team had this kind of blowout in them, and on the road. It earns Tennessee a Top 10 slot in KenPom, eighth overall and passing Auburn for the moment to re-take the top spot in the SEC. With ten games to go, the Vols continue to play themselves up the seed line, and emphatically so today.