Lipscomb revisited

Kentucky beat Lipscomb by 18 points. Auburn beat Lipscomb by 15. Tennessee led Lipscomb by five points with four minutes left Thursday night and eventually won by 11.

What does it all mean? Not a whole lot, according to Tennessee's players. They figure circumstances had more to do with the closeness of Thursday's game than the relative strengths of the two teams. The Vols beat Alabama A&M 93-68 Tuesday night, held a very light workout on Wednesday, then struggled to find their rhythm Thursday vs. Lipscomb.

The Bisons, meanwhile, were playing their first game following a 10-day Christmas break, and they took advantage of the hiatus to put in some new wrinkles for the Tennessee game. That made them a little tougher test for the Vols than they had been for UK and Auburn.

"We only had one day to prepare for them," Stanley Asumnu said. "And they ran some different things, which kind of threw us off guard."

Because the Vols didn't recognize some of Lipscomb's plays, they were a little tentative on defense at the outset. As a result, they forced the visitors into just five first-half turnovers.

"At first, we didn't press up on ‘em," Asumnu noted. "As the game started to get going we started pressing up on ‘em and made ‘em turn the ball over."

Indeed. The Vols forced 16 second-half turnovers, pushing Lipscomb's total for the game to 21.

UT head coach Bruce Pearl thought his team looked a little weary against the Bisons. Asumnu tended to disagree.

"I don't think we were tired," he said. "But our intensity was up and down. We came out high, then it went down, then we picked it back up."

That appeared to be true. Tennessee raced to an 11-2 lead in the opening minutes, then hit a lull. Lipscomb used a 13-3 run to go up 15-14, and the lead went back and forth the rest of the half. Tennessee's inability to take control was easily explained. The Vols shot an icy 33.3 percent (10 of 30) in the first 20 minutes.

"We really weren't hitting our open shots," Asumnu said.

Leading 27-26 at the break, UT opened the second half with a 10-2 spurt that provided a 37-28 lead. Thanks to a strong defensive effort by Tennessee, the Bisons never got closer than two points thereafter.

As Asumnu put it: "We were missing easy baskets we know we can make, so we had to find some way on the defensive end to make plays and get the crowd into it."

Ultimately, the Vols found enough ways and made enough plays to move their record to 8-1 with only one game (Wednesday against South Alabama) remaining on the pre-SEC slate.

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